Artificial Intelligence in a Globalised Market

08 Dec

Artificial intelligence and this whole concept of machines taking over man is a concept which I never understood, fundamentally because, men make machines and so, how could machines get any more intelligent than a man who is producing it. But then, recently, I was doing some reading on globalisation and its impacts and it suddently occurred to me that concepts of artificial intelligence make a lot of sense, from an orthogonal view. Though the connection between globalisation and AI is a little far fetched, I will try my best to give a flavor of how they can be compared.

The real question behind my analysis lies in this fundamental question.. What is productivity? How can it be improved? If you define productivity by the amount of (wo)man-hours spent in producing a given product, there is an area of vagueness in the definition. The missing factor is “how is the product made?”. You can have a worker spending all his time into making a product in, say 1 day. His productivity is 1 unit/day. However, let us say he has a machine which can do the work in approximately 1 hr, the productivity has jumped up by 24 units/day. Ofcourse, there is a cost element to the equation. What if, you can get 10 people who collectively produce the same 1 unit output of the original man at 1/10 the cost. The productivity in terms of output per man-hour reduces. But, the cost/unit is still the same. What if you get 10 people at the same cost as the original man and they are all as productive as the original man. Now, the productivity increases 10 fold for the same cost. The point I am trying to make is that the absolute definition of productivity cannot be defined in simple terms from a black-box perspective of using man-hours. It is much more than that.

If you look back at history, you will notice that, the cycles of low-cost labors was in turn followed by a technology that obviated the necessity of such low-cost labors. The main question here is, if something can be done very repetitively by following a proper sequence, it can almost always be optimized by a machine. As industries mature, more and more of this keeps happening resulting in the need for a larger number of highly skilled workers who handle lot more than just a sequence of predetermined events. So, in a way, the machine has already taken over a lot of man’s repetitive job. As optimizations in the form of machines take place, the resultant work force is left with higher and higher skills than the regular labors. One immediate solution to rising the productivity in this group is to find people who can do the same job at lesser cost. But then, the big question is, can we incorporate the knowledge of such a worker into a machine that can learn just enough to perform a specialised job function efficiently or atleast simplify the job of a skilled worker to a greater extent. If that happens, which is highly possible, may be in the next couple of decades, the so-called knowledge workers need to find even more competitive skills to cherish. Extrapolating furthermore, in the next century or two, machines will certainly take over most of the man’s skills, and who knows, if they accrue intelligence of that sort and take their “own” decisions, they might take over the mankind….


Posted by on December 8, 2005 in From AM-KICKING blog


4 responses to “Artificial Intelligence in a Globalised Market

  1. sdpal

    December 8, 2005 at 6:37 pm

    Wondering, below areas will ever by replaced by machines ?(Doctors/lawyers/construction/restaurants etc)

    Human beings are always adaptive.. I hope they will find someway to adapt to that life (either by gaining more knowledge or opening new doors for some new opportunities)

  2. BrainWaves

    December 8, 2005 at 11:50 pm

    More and more low-skilled human jobs are present because humans prefer human interaction in lot of cases. It is slowly changing already and will move towards more machinery.

    This is the isolation we talked in this blog.

    But the real question is, whether this will pose new set of problems. Meaning, reduction in population or more disparity between rich and poor which could cause some kind of revolution by the poor or worst destruction of whole earth!

    Don’t blame me.. I am just continuing your line of thought 🙂

  3. Survivor

    December 9, 2005 at 7:32 pm

    YES!! Robots will rule earth and we will be slaves. Have you guys watched “Planet of the Apes” where humans are ruled by Apes. Imagine us being slaves to Robots. Nah !! Doesn’t sound cool..huh..
    Anyway, why do I care? I will be long gone by then.
    Seriously speaking,we can reduce manual errors by automating things using machines especially in field where manual errors have dangerous consequences(like Medical).The other day I was watching a seminar where a firm has come up with a sensing device used to find veins when trying to start an IV. For people who have not had any pokings in their veins, this may not sound significant but for me, who has had all kinds of emotions from exhilaration when a nurse finds a vein in the first poke to anger&frustration accompanied by tears when a nurse keeps on poking trying to find a vein…a device that can find your vein by sensing the pressure in your arm….its a boon..Well..if machines can do that,I welcome them with open arms…The guys who design them are my heroes….

  4. Mindframes

    December 11, 2005 at 1:17 am

    Machines already have an indispensable role in the functioning of humans. Be it doctors, engineers, lawyers and what not. The only major thing that differentiates a machine with a human is that, machines dont synthesize information, they simply retain it. There are a whole bunch of genetic and AI algorithms which allow machine to do some amount of synthesis. For a long time, the ability of machines were limited mainly by 2 factors. Number of computations and the storage space. With technology forging ahead, those are not the major problems anymore. Ofcourse, human brain is the most complex and one cannot model all its functionalities in the near future. But, parts of it which pertains to an occupation can certainly be modelled and will be done so.

    As brainwaves says, new set of problems will come up. But, that is not going to limit technology or its evolution. Any technology, if proven to work, will sustain, no matter what the problems are. If there is a technology to make people live for ever young, will people ignore it? If there is a way to clone humans, are people refraining from doing it? It might lead to destruction of humankind, I agree, but, that could also mean that it could be the evolution of machine-world…


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