Will Artificial Intelligence (AI) herald a new era of world peace?
Where there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in the character.
When there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home.
When there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation.
When there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world.
– Dr Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, scientist and former president of India
Peace has been the world’s goal for a long time. Every year, leaders from around the globe congregate at different events to dialogue about how to achieve world peace, but so far, we are nowhere near it. In some ways, we seem to be moving further away from achieving our goal.
Arguably, there are many reasons that contribute to our failed quest for world peace but if we can boil it down to one core reason, it would be leadership.
Effective leadership is built on effective communication; it makes or breaks a home, nation or the world.
In the age of the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0), we are seeing many new innovations being introduced. Start-ups are growing everywhere.
Everybody is jumping on the bandwagon of technological revolution, pushing the boundaries of possibilities.
Artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), etc. that make up Industry 4.0 have grown exponentially over the last decade.
They are creating businesses, industries and products that are changing the socio-economic fabric of the known world today.
We have seen blockchain change the financial industry through Bitcoin. IoT has made homes, offices and cities “smart”.
What about AI?
Many science fiction movies depict AI as evil – artificially evil, at least.
AI is bigger than Arnold Schwarzenegger riding around in a leather jacket with a shotgun in his hand, and surely bigger than the spooky red laser point, HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Some movies do portray them to be super cool.
Take, for instance, Iron Man’s Edwin Jarvis, short for Just-A-Really-Very-Intelligent-System. He’s potentially the best personal assistant you can ever find.
Even Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s trustworthy butler, who also happens to be excellent at analytics and engineering works, cannot match the processing power of Jarvis.
Not even Niles, the butler from The Nanny series, whose sense of humour and sarcasm towards Cee Cee Babcock, was once thought to be unparalleled.
Jarvis was simply exceptional, but far from a reality.
The dawn of AI systems
The idea of a human-like, truly self-aware AI, although completely legitimate, is still limited by technology itself.
Human beings are fully aware of their existence, and that means they are aware of every component, function and interactions within the human body.
At the moment, AI systems are only able to execute individual tasks, independent of others.
They may have excellent image or voice recognition capabilities, but these two functions are not aware of each other.
Picture yourself as having your left hand and right hand as two separate units, requiring two sets of brains to function, and these brains are not aware of each other’s existence.
Simply put, we have not arrived to a place where one single AI system can perform all human functionalities
From information to communication
In the midst of these advancements, we must realise that we have long moved past the Information Age and are now heading towards the Age of Communications.
Information technology was revolutionary back then because it transformed the way people send and receive information.
It made information easily accessible to almost anyone with a smart device.
With information now readily available, the breakthrough needed is no longer in how information is accessed but in how it is communicated.
Together with smart devices, instant messaging platforms and social media networks have certainly transformed how we communicate.
However, much of these changes have been cast in a negative light with the loss of privacy and the rise of anti-social behaviour.
As people prefer digital communications to personal touch, we could be heading towards a worldwide communication breakdown.
Leveraging AI for better communication
The field of AI that deals with human languages is known as Natural Language Processing.
After years of research and development, and many failed attempts like the infamous Microsoft Office assistant, Clippy and the early stages of Apple’s Siri, AI has finally had a major breakthrough in the area of communication.
As a result, we have seen a rise in chatbots, which is now popularly used as a replacement for online customer service, and even apps like Replika that solve the need for relationships for some.
There is even Ruuh, Microsoft’s chatbot on Facebook that has the personality of a girl who enjoys anything Bollywood.
She can even reply in Hindi and is capable of making typos to make her replies sound as natural as possible.
On that note, why not use AI to create products that enhance communications not only from a social perspective, but in a way that creates a more tangible effect?
As Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam once said, peace in the world starts from righteousness in the heart. Could it be possible for AI to make us better people?
Imagine some of the most popular and effective personality and behavioural assessments used by many, now having an AI tool to provide a clearer and more continuous reflection of our character.
AI for personal, home and work?
Almost everybody with a smart device has a digital footprint. Why not use these data to help us understand ourselves better?
Wire-tapping was, and still is, controversial. It is portrayed in movies where homes were being tapped to listen to important conversations.
Today, we purchase cool gadgets like Amazon Alexa and Google Home because it is just amazing to have a scaled down version of Jarvis at home!
Here’s an idea for the next entrepreneurial millennial – use the exact technology behind these products to solve miscommunication issues at home.
Your start-up tagline could be “Building A Harmonious Home”.
I was once in a start-up which aimed to resolve communication issues at the workplace through AI.
As we know, there are numerous problems that need to be solved in the workplace, but most consultants are already working on trying to solve them.
An ever-growing diverse culture in the work environment, although admirable, poses a huge communication problem.
We need tools that can help people to communicate at all levels, up and down the chain of command. We need tools to help leaders understand their teams better.
In a nutshell
Along with the many avenues that have been used over history to achieve world peace, AI and the various components of Industry 4.0 should be seriously considered to solve some of the more fundamental challenges of society.
Let us move past the fear of losing jobs to robots and automation. AI works from a big pool of data towards a convergence point of an optimised solution, and it stays that way until it perfects the solution.
Humans, on the other hand, have the amazing ability to start from pure nothingness and produce greatness in art, literature and science.
We must move pass stock market predictions, targeted advertising and intelligent weaponry, and channel as many resources as possible towards ideas and products that make the world a better place without robbing elements of humanity.
Yes, the potential for AI to be an agent for world peace is incredible, and it begins with the right ideas and the right thoughts for the right cause.
We can start by slowly changing our perception towards AI, from seeing it as potential threat to mankind to promoting it as a powerful tool instead.
Industry 4.0 will have a greater impact in time but, unlike the first three that revolutionised transport, power and computation in a positive way by default, this one gives the power back to us to decide on what its impact will be to the world.
It is therefore up to us to shape the future with the available tools today.
Let us take control of our destiny, instead of being led by technology into an unwanted future. Let us guide it in the way that aids us towards our desired future.