Fri | Apr 19, 2019

Beware of artificial intelligence, Wheatley warns BPO sector

Published:Wednesday | April 18, 2018 | 12:00 AMBryan Miller/Gleaner Writer
Science, Energy and Technology Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley


Investors and workers in the ever -expanding local business process outsourcing (BPO) sector are being warned about the dangers of the evolving development of artificial intelligence (AI) within the scientific community and the effects it can have on the industry.

According to Science, Energy and Technology Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley who was speaking at last week's inaugural Symposium and Exposition in Montego Bay, St James, the direction of the continued innovation within the technological sector towards AI will have profound effects on the BPO sector.

"Some persons may interpret it as being troubling developments, but I want for us to look at it more from the perspective that it provides an opportunity for us to be more innovative," said Wheatley.

"These developments, I am sure, will have profound effects on our way of life, on our way of doing business, on our way of interacting with each other. It will also have profound effects on the BPO sector. In fact, it has already started."

Using a quote from late physicist and author Stephen Hawking to make his point, Wheatley stated, "The development of full AI could spell the end of the human race. It would take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate.

Humans are limited by slow biological evolution. [We] could not compete and would be superseded."


Proceed with caution


However, expressing the view that we need to embrace technological advances, Wheatley argued that based on the level of exposure, understanding, and experience of persons within the BPO sector, he is sure that "we are at that point where we can manipulate the technology of AI to serve all other sectors".

"If we should shy away from that, it would be to our own detriment," he explained.

Even while concluding that AI and machine learning represent a real threat to some traditional jobs, the minister argued that they would also help to create new job opportunities. He said that scenario would necessitate the building out of a knowledge- based economy and a workforce that embraces the technology.

"We need to also look at retraining our people. We have to look at this sector to see how we can fashion it in such a way that we optimise the potential of the technology, and as a scientist, I have to recognise, as well, the impact of AI in the realm of science," noted Wheatley.

Artificial intelligence, also known as machine intelligence, is intelligence demonstrated by machines in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans and other animals. Colloquially, the term 'artificial intelligence' is applied when a machine mimics cognitive functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as learning and problem solving.