It's been a while since I posted on steemit and like most humans living on this earth, I've been struggling with the impact of COVID-19 on my way of life. One thing I've spent a lot of time thinking about is - when COVID-19 finally ends - how the world will change after this crisis. It's really hard to pin down as it depends on so many variables, least of which is how long till a semblance of "normal" returns to our lives. Whichever way you spin it though, it's increasingly becoming clear that the world will not be the same after this crisis is over. From "not shaking hands anymore" to "normalizing working from home" as a default employee benefit, COVID-19 is bound to have a lasting impact for generations to come. One impact, less discussed however is how it will impact the adoption of AI technologies. In this article, I'll pen a few of my thoughts.
AI was the greatest weapon humanity had to combat COVID-19
Several books, articles, even movies will be made from this crisis, and when the story will be told (rightly of course), the central theme will be that the greatest weapon humanity had to fight this virus was AI. Without the predictions made by authors such as Tomas Pueyo in his classic medium article, where he clearly used AI to create "what-if" scenarios and several mitigation strategies for which I'm sure many governments learned a thing a two from, as they battled the spread of the virus. I know a lot of people in the media bemoaned governments that failed to listen to warnings from "scientists" but can you imagine if humanity did not even have people with such AI superpowers create the models that clearly amplified these warnings? The penalty in human lives would have been unthinkable. More recently, apple and google have teamed up to create an AI super app that can tell if you are in a zone of known COVID-19 infection. Just a few months a go, this would have been unthinkable from both a technology and ethics point of view and this leads to my next point.
AI's adoption will be accelerated given COVID-19
The irony of all this is that COVID-19 might actually be the best thing to happen to the wide-spread adoption of AI. Think about it for a second. Before COVID-19, apple fought the FBI against unlocking people's iPhone's and now it wants to develop tracking technology on the same iPhone - and no one is screaming privacy or ethics! The truth is, ethics and the preservation of our right to privacy has slowed down the wide adoption of AI. The algorithms already exist. Data is necessary to make them better but gaining access to that data requires an unprecedented access to our private lives, hence the deceleration to adoption with mechanisms such as the GDPR and the Toronto declaration. However, for most humans, giving the choice to save one's life, I'll argue that giving up our right to privacy might be a small price to pay.
AI will prevent the next COVID-19
One final thought is that given all the AI tools currently being developed to fight the current COVID-19, it is likely the next pandemic will not stand a chance against our defenses and be able to disrupt our lives like this one did. Granted that viruses mutate due to evolutionary contact with humans, but they have had very little contact with our AI machines to begin to even think of evolving to fight them. Even if they could, they are destined to loose as AI doesn't fight it's battles in the virus world of biology but in the machine world of mathematics. May be in another 100 years viruses might develop mathematical abilities but for now, humanity's best weapon has clearly come of age and it's expected to win its first battle, albeit against an invincible virus.