AI: mythological god or monster?

AI : mythological god or monster?

Will robots take over our jobs? Let's seperate popular myths from facts!

In religious mythology the existence of humankind is linked to the world of gods and spirits, narratives explaining unknowns about the world. Myths claim that the truths they communicate are valid, but in reality, they are a widely held but false belief.

Soon we will see narratives like the super-intelligence Skynet in the 1990s science fiction block, becoming commonplace. But a dark future with a fight against monsters like the Terminator seems a bit farfetched.

Yet, if you’ve been reading up on artificial intelligence recently, you’ve come across plenty of myths like the Terminator: All of our jobs are going to disappear! Robots are going to take over our business activities! Every company has to purchase AI very soon in order to survive in the market!

Try imagining that text analytics software and its learning algorithms are able to analyse reasons for payment regarding a money transfer process for example. Banks are currently thinking about using that information for cross selling and also fraud detection.

AI myths are widespread

Let’s examine a few of these widespread AI myths.

All of us, in one way or another, are customers of a bank. Let’s say I call the bank or write a message to the customer service account of my bank. An AI system may answer my question “independently,” without me knowing that I’m not talking to a human. Is that already happening in the real world? Yes, it is.

But the CIO or head of analytics must educate the CEO to ensure the decision makers of the bank are not working under false assumptions or myths about the technology.

There is no question for those well versed in technology that AI will change the way we work and live. But the popular myths encircling AI contain some ominous predictions.

Popular myths encircling #AI contain some ominous predictions. Will AI software solve all business problems? @christi19962006 seperates myths from facts. Click To Tweet

Myth: Organisations need a Chief AI Officer

Should businesses believe the claim that if they purchase artificial intelligence software, it will solve all their problems? This is clearly a myth born of industry AI hype.

However – what we see is that Chief Data Officers or Innovation Managers are reporting to the CRO to give advice regarding AI in risk processes. This seem to be a more practical approach than hiring a Chief AI Officer.

There is no single thing as AI, nor will it solve all business problems. AI is always a bundle of various technologies, modelling approaches, and interfaces. Does this mean every business now should have an AI strategy or a chief AI officer to identify the best approach?

Let’s look back to the 1990’s. Graphic user interfaces (GUIs) were gaining mainstream popularity. They are still advancing and improving today. But nobody had a GUI strategy or a chief GUI officer, and the same is true of AI.

Myth: AI is reality

What about the belief that artificial intelligence is now a reality? This broad statement may fall into the grey area somewhere between myth and fact.

We have to make some distinctions here. Individual features such as speech recognition, for instance with Siri, or learning models for fraud detection are already a reality. But there is no truly independent AI as such.

Consider the different types of intelligence a child develops. These include logical/mathematical intelligence, motor skills, and social and emotional intelligence. Similarly, banks, other institutions and CIOs have to define which AI solutions they need for which type of intelligence.

And in fact, each system — such as an autonomous vehicle — only pursues objectives that humans have programmed it to. And forecasting share movements in a research point of view to get good results in an asset management approach is also a human driven approach because data and machine learning models have to be implemented upfront.

Is artificial intelligence now a reality? The broad statement may fall into the grey area somewhere between myth and fact.  Learn more about our AI journey with SAS.


Myth: AI has human characteristics

That brings us to the next big AI myth. “Artificial intelligence has human characteristics.”

Highly advanced data analytics, the foundation for AI, attempts to predict human behavior as accurately as possible and communicate with users in a way that creates the illusion of human interaction. But it’s still merely an illusion, some interactions more evident than others.

Because, just like with a self-driving car, all AI systems have a data scientist who must make decisions about which modelling approaches to use — deep learning, random forest or logistic regression.

These approaches must then be implemented within the business process in just the right way to ensure that they are viable. And there is one thing that is still indispensable for that: people. There are certainly platform vendors who provide a wide range of developer approaches and preferences about how to integrate them.

But the developers are still human beings. And a so-called superintelligence created by AI, simply does not yet exist. Yet, researchers such as Stephen Hawking have warned that a superintelligence may be created within as few as 50 years.

Myth: AI is self-learning

Another myth that fits perfectly here is that AI is self-learning.

But in this case as well, the system stays within the limits that its programmers have set for it. It gives its programmers feedback, but the programmer determines what to do with that information. The self-learning aspect doesn’t happen in the AI itself, but rather as part of special mathematical procedures that work iteratively, applying a type of learning algorithm. How does it learn? Via a pre-defined iterative procedure itself or through data that are constantly re-used. But humans will still be deciding which data are used.

Myth: AI is a lethal danger to the human race

Then there is the terrifying myth that brings us back to the Terminator, namely, that “artificial intelligence is a lethal danger to the human race, which must be saved.” This is also the central premise of the popular television show Westworld where intelligent robots become sentient and then terrorize their human masters.

We can also entertain the thought about the dangers of using a specific pocket banking assistant which is able to manage your cash flow before you know if you want to sell or purhase something – or handling your cash flows without any trigger of your human understanding regarding your own finance behavior.

The capabilities of artificial intelligence may give rise to lots of these fantasies, but we’re a long way from creating such scenarios. Myths, myths and more myths.

But when we hear that futurist and Google engineer Ray Kurzweil predicted self-driving cars by 2015 at the beginning of the millennium — which actually happened — and that Kurzweil has predicted that we’ll be able to extend our human brains into the cloud by 2050, it certainly does grab your attention.

I’m going to ask Siri what she thinks.


About Author

Christian Engel

Based in Germany, Christian Engel is a Head of Banking experts and advisors for SAS

Christian Engel has lead a group of strategic business analytics advisors for key SAS accounts since 2006. His academic background is in mathematics and he completed his Diploma degree with concentrations in Operations Research in 1996 in Darmstadt. His day-to-day work involves calculating the value contribution of analytics software, optimizing analytic platforms for departments, and innovation projects related to new software technologies.

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