Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, is one of the most influential men in the world. What he thinks has ramifications for us all.
As you might expect, he’s embroiled in the latest technology, overseeing a company that is developing all sorts of new software for the 21st century. Right at the core of Google’s R&D efforts is artificial intelligence (AI). The company believes that if it can crack that nut, it’ll be able to offer its customers a level of service that they have never experienced before.
Pichai makes no bones about what he thinks of AI. He says that it will be bigger than either fire or electricity – two inventions that utterly reshaped human civilization. In his view, we ain’t seen nothing yet!
So what’s going on here? Why is AI such a big deal for people like Pichai who have the inside scoop on the technology?
Short Term Productivity Boom
In the near term, the productivity potential is massive. We could see the rise of marketing, customer service, and invoice automation, where software takes over grunt work once done by people. Some consulting firms, such as McKinsey, estimate that AI technology could double the average annual growth rates of countries around the world – a massive boon for all of us.
The Long Term Consequences of AI
But it’s the long term that really has people like Pichai excited – and scared. It’s the idea that humans could build a general-purpose digital brain that could do everything we can do, and more!
Think about what that might mean for a second. A machine that could all of the things that people can do, but better would change the world forever. It’s a bizarre and scary thought. Machines would cease to be tools that we use to make ourselves more productive and, instead, just be things that replace us outright.
Of course, Google doesn’t want to associate itself with this somewhat dystopian and disturbing future. It sees AI as a service that will enhance people’s lives, giving them tools that they can use to increase their incomes.
Google translate is one such product that the company says is now benefitting from AI technologies. Almost overnight, the quality of translations improved ten-fold, thanks to the power of machine learning. In the future, the company hopes to implement similar technologies in its search engines that really understand the context behind user queries.
For business, therefore, AI is a big deal. It means that the way that they use labor will change – and fast. Firms that understand how to use AI tools can free up people from grunt work and move them over to higher-value tasks. Over the next decade, we could enter an economic golden age similar to the 1960s, where productivity rises rapidly, and wages start to go up. Businesses that get ahead of the curve could find that they become much more profitable than their rivals, thanks to the ability of software to keep their expenses at rock bottom. If AI takes off how many experts imagine, it’ll become the main topic in the business world.