The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data usage might make us better human beings, but these technological platforms could also be the key to understanding people better.
This is the view of AI expert and former Google employee Jared Molko, whose passion for the field has taken him across Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
During his seven-year tenure at the international search engine giant, Molko also completed a master's degree in analytical psychology, where he learnt the importance of AI, particularly in the field of prediction, recommendation and automation.
He is now back in South Africa to spread awareness about this technological topic, which he also believes has the ability to transform the way in which business is conducted and the way human life is perceived.
“We are seeing a lot of strides happening across all these fronts, so I'm optimistic that SA is moving in the right direction.”
He explains that AI, which is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, as well as data collection, has the potential to revolutionise the modern world as we know it.
“How I see AI is that it shines a light on what has previously been in the dark. There are so many unanswered questions, and so many questions that we've yet to ask.
“I'm excited to see what conventional wisdom is proven and disproven. We are going to get a lot closer to a unified, objective view of reality, and finally, answer some of the big questions our philosophers have been debating for centuries.”
Data collection is personal but also carries value.
“We have to figure out a way of reconciling both those facets to make sure people's rights are respected while recognising the need for businesses to deliver value and generate income.
“There is a middle ground where both the individual and the organisation are respected, but I don't believe we have found it yet.”
While South Africa might not yet be on the technological level that other first world countries are, it is making great strides, which can be hugely beneficial if used responsibly.
“Our data processing power has increased 10 times, which means we can compute far more data at an affordable cost, and this has opened the door to tremendous amounts of innovation in the field.”
He adds that another key development is the move from a knowledge-based AI system, which is the idea of encoding rules that would describe all human knowledge, to a machine learning system.
“We quickly realised this was an overly ambitious idea with simply too many rules, and so machine learning became a way to solve this, instead of requiring people to manually encode hundreds of thousands of rules. This approach programmes machines to extract those rules automatically from piles of data. This development is what has pushed AI forward.”
But despite advancements in the online sphere, Molko says it is difficult to predict the direction in which AI is heading.
“Based on current observations, AI and technology in general amplifies and exacerbates at the same time, take for instance social media and Facebook. Here we have amplified our ability to connect and communicate with each other, and at the same time it has exacerbated our prejudices, which we see playing out.
“I think we're in for some turbulent times, but ultimately, I believe AI will force us to become better at being human, which is quite ironic.”