Without a doubt, AI has changed the world as we knew it just 10 years ago but fortunately (or unfortunately depending on which side of the divide you sit on) it's not done yet.
I plan this to be a three part article describing where we've been with AI or the past (part 1), where we'll likely go in 2020 or the present (part 2) and what the next decade might hold for AI or the future (part 3). I hope you enjoy reading the series.
Let's start by describing some of the changes AI has brought about in the last decade:
This has led to massive increases in efficiency but also job losses in such sectors as manufacturing. This trend is expected to continue with several stakeholders (governments, workers and companies) lagging behind in dealing with some of its more severe social consequences. An example of this is the current political debate about miners becoming coders. There is no doubt that the politics of either side of this argument is tricky but its economics shouldn't be.
Democratization of Education
Since the earliest of civilizations, education has always been reserved for the elite or select few. From the classical libraries in Alexandria to the the modern public libraries of current day, your education was only as good as your location and degree of access. With the very recent introduction of MOOCs, aided by AI technology, and championed by organizations such as Coursera, edx and udacity, just to name a few, has led to such massive societal change in education that seems to have gone unnoticed. For example, a curious child in Guatemala can learn from the best professors at MIT without leaving the confines of her home (or a close by internet cafe)! This is exactly what radical and disruptive progress looks like.
Decentralization of Information
More than a decade ago, if you needed information, the sources were limited. Today, information is everywhere, and not just any kind of information but the kind you may actually want to see or read. This didn't happen by chance but has been the result of developing powerful AI algorithms that sift through available information and recommend those it thinks you will be interested in. This is a key driving force among all the social media companies.
Creation of New Industries & Economies
Think Airbnb, uber, lyft etc. which gave rise to the sharing economies. These companies will not exist as we know them today without AI. Also consider the unprecedented level of scale AI has enabled these companies to achieve in just a few years. Airbnb is the world's largest hotel chain, Uber, the world's largest taxi company. In fact these companies are teaching other companies and new entrepreneurs alike that to ignore the power of AI is to do so at ones peril. Every company or entrepreneur now wants to incorporate AI in some fashion into it's existing business model or do a complete makeover starting from scratch with AI.
Democratization of Finance and Investing
Finally, to my personal favorite. Just a few years ago, there were few investment options to anyone with less than $100,000 to invest. The reason for this was rooted in the economics of investing - investment fees are percentage based and an investment manager needed a large base from which to deduct reasonable fees for their time. Even if such an investment manager wanted to take advantage of economics of scale by signing up ten $10,000 accounts, she will quickly realize her time is finite and cannot scale. AI changed all that and companies such as wealthsimple and Betterment - just to name a few - have used the technology to successfully scale micro investing. Traditional investment managers have also taken notice with some of them creating (or buying) their own arms of robo advisors.
This sums up my list of the impact AI has had on the past decade. Do you have any I may have missed? Feel free to share. In part 2 of this post I'll be making predictions for where I think AI will go in 2020.
Thanks for reading!