While it is difficult to predict the impact of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) on the economy and the labour market, they have huge potential in sectors such as healthcare, Bill Gates, co-chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said.
“Certainly we use AI to do drug discovery. These biological systems are very complicated and so the fact that we have vaccines for TB and HIV coming, that is partly enabled by this rich data, advance in biology and machine learning,” he said.
Gates was speaking at the inaugural ‘Mint Visionaries’ event in New Delhi where he was in conversation with Rishad Premji, chairman of Wipro Ltd. Though machine learning can give us some miracle tools, its impact on jobs is an important issue, he noted.
Commenting on the narrative that AI is taking over the jobs, Gates said we need to be careful when there are advances. “In a sense, we are all better off. If the machines can make all the food and none of us have to work, you need to think now we have all the freedom. But it will be very disruptive because, say you made career in manufacturing or driving, then it is a disruption. Now we have had that in a slow way for hundreds of years. We all used to be farmers and now very few of us are farmers – my father was a farmer, I am not a farmer,” he pointed out.
“AI has accelerated over the last 10 years as these machine learning techniques called deep learnings and some varieties around that have been advanced very rapidly; so there is a class of things like game plan or speech recognition or image recognition that the performance levels are phenomenal. If you compare human speech recognition and computer speech recognition; the computer is slightly better and that’s mind-blowing,” he observed.
Machine learning will lead to mind-blowing improvements in healthcare and will create new types of work. “The most direct application you will see is when we look at a woman to see if she has cervical cancer – we do image recognition and we can do way better than any human or any previous tasks just by using a cell phone camera. So imaging, whether through an ultrasound or normal picture, even down at the primary healthcare clinic, there is going to be mind-blowing improvements in what we can do to treat people. So these agents that can help you tutor or learn math. You can have this dialogue and get rewards and then you will figure out what you are confused about, so it will be like a personal tutor – that is coming within the next five years or so and that is fantastic because it compels society to do new types of work,” he added.