Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI)
Even though I think that computers will get to human level Artificial Intelligence within 10 or 15 years, the effects of Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI), which are already well underway, will be extremely disruptive even without major breakthroughs in computer chips or programming algorithms. IBM’s Watson and Apple’s Siri are current examples of ANI. Let’s just extrapolate those technologies perhaps seven years forward and look at their potential.
I do a Read-to-the-Dog program at two libraries with my 125 lb. Newfoundland dog. This is a national program proven to improve a child’s reading fluency dramatically. But here is what I see. I have seven year olds coming in that can read chapter books; so they are perhaps reading at a fourth grade level. I also have seven year olds coming in that can barely read the simplest of books. Even the parents are often unaware of the books their children can read, because the children often come in with books completely wrong for their reading abilities. How can any teacher effectively handle a class with such disparity in reading skills? They can’t! Either some kids will be overwhelmed or some kids will be bored. So we begin losing these kids intellectually even at this young age. It doesn’t matter whether a child with weak reading skills has inherent inability or environmental issues. And a bright child unchallenged is equally bad. It just is not working. We all know this!
Let’s fast-forward seven years. For reading class, each child goes into their own cubicle with their own computer display. A Siri-like voice greets them, asks their name, and then proceeds to work with them on reading. This computer knows exactly where the child is on reading level, and challenges the child with just the right level of books. The computer listens to the child read and gently corrects when necessary. The computer also asks content questions to make sure the child understands what is being read, and that the child has proper grammar when answering. Again, everything exactly at the child’s learning level, with the computer changing reading difficulty if needed. And the computer will be sure to complement the child on progress, or even just effort. The room with the cubicles will still need a human monitor to make sure the children are where they should be, but this person would not require teaching skills.
You obviously can do the same thing for math and most other subjects. And these classes could also be done at home for home-schooled children. This whole thing can be done with a Watson-level computer with a Siri-like voice. And the schools won’t even have to buy the computers. They can rent the computer hours from the Cloud! There is no reason that the same programs won’t work in every school, so the cost to implement per school should not be prohibitive. In fact, it is likely to be a cost savings for the school!
Another example! I also take my therapy dog to hospitals three or four times per week. In the heart hospital, in their intensive and critical care units, the patients are wired up to a lot of sensors. In the hall outside each room is a computer showing the outputs from those sensors. The nurses are constantly referring to these monitors, and there are alarms that go off when a measured value goes outside preset limits. The nurses are also looking for trends or changes. But the nurses also have to do patient care, so those hall computer displays are not being watched constantly.
But not to worry! In a separate room down the hall are duplicate displays that are monitored by technicians that do NOT have to do patient care. Each technician watches three screens, and if they see something weird they call the appropriate nurse on their cell, or the supervisor, and explain what they are seeing. This room has 10 technicians and is staffed 24 hours per day. So there are 40 technicians plus backups. These technicians are costing the hospital close to $3,000,000 per year, and I assume that something similar exists in every critical care unit across the US. Certainly what the technicians are doing can be taught to a Watson-level computer. No breakthroughs are needed.
These two examples are just from my own daily experiences. I am sure that each reader can give similar examples themselves. The point I am making is that AI will be very disruptive to our country and economy even without having computers capable of thought. Think of how many teachers and computer technicians may lose their jobs! Consider how many universities that offer teaching degrees will lose students. What will happen to teachers’ wages and the teachers’ unions?