‘AI not a threat but an op­por­tu­nity’

The Sunday Independent - - METRO - LUKE FOLB luke.folb@inl.co.za

AR­TI­FI­CIAL In­tel­li­gence (AI) is be­ing in­te­grated into our ev­ery­day life as the Fourth In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion brings with it swoop­ing changes to our cy­ber sys­tems and the way that we use tech­nol­ogy both in the work­place and at home.

AI is the sim­u­la­tion of hu­man in­tel­li­gence pro­cesses by ma­chines, espe­cially com­puter sys­tems. Par­tic­u­lar ap­pli­ca­tions of AI in­clude ex­pert sys­tems, speech recog­ni­tion and ma­chine vi­sion.

Ac­cord­ing to Sipho Pityana, pres­i­dent of Busi­ness Unity South Africa (Busa) and chair­per­son of An­gloGold Ashanti, South Africa’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem needs to evolve to make use of the op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­sented by the next revo­lu­tion.

“We have to look at the dis­rup­tions that will take place and change our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem so that we train suit­ably skilled work­ers,” he said.

Pityana said dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy was trans­form­ing pol­i­tics, busi­nesses, economies and so­ci­ety, and day-to-day lives.

“Ap­prox­i­mately 41% of all of our job ac­tiv­ity in South Africa is sus­cep­ti­ble to au­to­ma­tion so we have to shift the fo­cus from see­ing tech­nol­ogy not as a threat but as op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Pityana said.

“We are not hav­ing suf­fi­cient con­ver­sa­tions among our­selves about the so­cial dy­nam­ics of the dig­i­tal revo­lu­tion.

“We are cur­rently bat­tling with low lev­els of nu­mer­acy and tech­nol­ogy lit­er­acy – short­com­ings that make many of our peo­ple un­em­ploy­able in a grow­ing econ­omy,” said Pityana.

Lebo Lekoma, di­rec­tor of client ser­vices at Sea Mon­ster En­ter­tain­ment in Cape Town, works on pro­grammes us­ing gam­i­fi­ca­tion, vir­tual and aug­mented re­al­ity (AR), and an­i­ma­tion.

“AI and AR can some­times get a bad rep­u­ta­tion be­cause of what we’ve seen on movies, but we can use it to solve hu­man prob­lems and chal­lenges,” said Lekoma.

“We can use AR for things like do­ing height de­tec­tion train­ing to see if a worker is afraid of heights be­fore he is even hired for a job and put through train­ing by us­ing AR to sim­u­late the ex­pe­ri­ence.”

He has worked on a cell­phone ap­pli­ca­tion for the South African Re­serve Bank us­ing aug­mented re­al­ity on bank notes help­ing users to un­der­stand what the mark­ings on the note mean, the au­then­tic­ity of the note and his­tor­i­cal facts.

The note is brought to life through the app.

“So if you are a his­tory buff or a child go­ing to school you can learn all these facts,” said Lekoma.

Jonathan Walker, the founder of Granadilla, an app-based in­surer, said the in­sur­ance in­dus­try had to use tech­nol­ogy to speed up claims pro­cesses to rad­i­cally change how the in­dus­try op­er­ates.

“Be­sides the many is­sues one en­coun­ters, as an in­sur­ance client the big­gest is­sue I have with the busi­ness is the in­ef­fi­ciency of it,” Walker said.

“Cus­tomer ser­vice is slow, be­cause in many cases the in­dus­try hasn’t evolved its claims process since the in­ven­tion of the tele­phone.

“This in­ef­fi­ciency also re­sults in costs which are passed on to the cus­tomer,” said Walker.

He said AI makes the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence more per­son­alised through the col­lec­tion of data which is then used to in­ter­act with cus­tomers.

The more data that is fed into these sys­tems, the more in­tel­li­gently they can re­act, and in­ter­act, by pre­dict­ing the be­hav­iour of cus­tomers, Walker added.

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