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Instead of robots taking jobs, A.I. may help humans do their jobs better

Sharon Gaudin | Sept. 23, 2015
Scientists see the greatest advances coming in A.I. and human cooperation

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Despite worries that robots will take jobs from humans, a group of researchers says what's more likely, and more powerful, is that humans will eventually work cooperatively with cyber assistants.

A soldier might be given a smart assistant that will train with him and one day do battle alongside him. A college grad just entering the workforce may get her own smart assistant that will learn along with her and provide support as she advances through her career.

In this way, artificial intelligence (A.I.) and robots could very well make people better soldiers and workers. They could make people become what we've come to think of as "super" human.

"There are many exciting areas [in A.I.] coming up, but A.I. and human cooperation is an area with tremendous potential," said Tom Dietterich, a professor and director of Intelligent Systems at Oregon State University. "Instead of A.I. systems replacing people in the workplace, each of us would have an A.I. assistant that we would train in our lives and the two of us, together, would be employed ... This is where we can see super-human performance coming from the combination of the human and the computer."

Scientists like Trevor Darrell, a computer science professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said that in the next five or 10 years, the abilities of smart devices will multiply by orders of magnitude.

That means we'll have gone from a world where artificial intelligence is used to power Google search and Apple's smart assistant Siri to having smart furniture that can reposition itself around the house based on our voice commands and robotic butlers will bring us coffee when we simply think about wanting a cup.

It also means there will be increasingly smart robots working in factories and warehouses.

Some worry that companies will replace human workers with machines that don't have to be paid for vacation time, health care and sick leave.

And their fears don't stop at factory jobs.

Late last year, Andrew McAfee, co-founder of the Initiative on the Digital Economy at MIT, said it won't be long before intelligent machines will begin to increasingly replace knowledge workers.

In the near future, artificially intelligent machines could be used to provide financial advice or a medical diagnoses. Middle-class workers could be looking into a future where they are replaced by machines.

That fear can be added on to other fears about A.I. creating sentient robots that will one day rise up and wipe out the human race.


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