What Is Artificial Intelligence Doing To Humanity?

Elon Musk is famously both an advocate for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and an outspoken prophet of doom of the technology.  Musk once pointed out that if a digital super-intelligent computer programmed to purge the world of spam emails follows through to its natural conclusion, it will determine that the best way to get rid of spam is to get rid of humans.  Hopefully such a computer will never have the capability to fulfill its mission!

In many areas of AI though, the ultimate goal is, in fact, to eliminate, or at least reduce the participation of human beings in a particular activity, and replace them with a machine or computer.  From autonomous vehicles to humanoid robots, smart robots and virtual assistants, it looks as though in the not too distant future we will be sitting back while our needs get taken care of by machines.

Even our interactions with other forms of technology are being scaled back more and more via AI. Physical interfaces like the mouse, touchpad and keyboard are being replaced by AI platforms such as voice recognition and gesture control.

AI is replacing our hands, and it is also being used to substitute for our minds.  With AI platforms like Machine Learning, Recommendation Engines and Context Aware Computing, all we need is a first thought and the computer will do the rest of the work.  No longer will you have to search online to find the phone number of the local pizza shops, decide which one you want to call, pick up the phone and place an order.  Soon the day will come when all you need to do is think, “me hungry for pizza”, and the closest, cheapest, fastest, tastiest pizza shop will be at your door within minutes to satisfy your cravings, all thanks to AI.

How great is all this?  Obviously there is a lot of upside to the impact that technology has had and will have on our lives.  But, to be sure, the downside exists as well, and has already reared its ugly head.

Arguably the most significant price that society has paid with the advent of the smartphone – our personal AI machine – is the loss of the ancient art of uninterrupted, face to face conversations.  Social campaigns abound pleading with our generation to put the phone down and spend quality time with our family and loved ones instead of focusing on our handheld device.

With AI, not only is our communication with computers becoming detached and virtual, we are no longer connected to the people around us either.

But there is one category of AI development that truly has the betterment of humanity in mind.  You guessed it: the health industry.

AI companies have been popping up all over the world.  According to VentureScanner data, only around 10 AI companies were founded in the year 2000 compared with over 130 in 2013.  Today there are over 1,190 AI companies in all fields of technology, and the numbers continue to grow.

CB Insights compiled a list of 92 AI startups pursuing medical applications.  In the infographic below they created 11 sub-categories within the industry, in which these companies have active interest.

AI_healthcare_map_20160829

Of those listed, at least 6 – MedAware, Profility, Zebra, Intendu, Medasense and MedyMatch – are Israeli companies.  There are quite a few more Israeli AI companies in the healthcare space that did not make the list, among them, Perlis, Medical Surgery Technologies and Pocared.

One thing is for sure.  If Elon Musk is expecting a world where AI is advanced beyond our imagination, so should we.

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