Often when powerful technologies are not properly understood, there is a desire to pass new laws or take some action to protect the public interest. That isn’t necessarily a good thing. Ronald Reagan famously quipped, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’”
What happens if more advanced devices achieve a measure of creativity? Creativity isn’t something derived from a mathematical equation. The simplest thing for a child, picking a random number, is something a computer can only fake. A machine capable of coming up not just with unpredictable numbers but also with spontaneous ideas would change everything.
Advanced artificial intelligence algorithms have the ability to take over tasks traditionally reserved for skilled human operators, such as driving a truck or performing a medical diagnosis. What once was the stuff of science fiction is now reality. This technology has made tremendous leaps in the last decade, yet it remains nowhere near its full potential.
Contrary to the plot of so many sci-fi blockbusters, a self-aware, evil A.I. purposely aiming at pedestrians is just as unlikely as one launching nuclear missiles. Far more mundane errors are likely to trouble advanced A.I. programs, because no matter how perfect and benign the underlying algorithms, and how flawless the computing hardware might be, things can still go very wrong.
Like any tool, AI can be dangerous when misused. It’s the unknown that’s scariest of all, and fear is the biggest threat to technological advances. Expanding knowledge – eliminating the unknown – is the best way to alleviate anxiety and reduce the natural impulse of politicians to ban what they don’t understand. If we wait until the point where we need to plead the case for AI and O.R. to lawmakers, the battle will already have been lost.
It won’t be the case of robots using operations research algorithms to call all the shots, rendering humans superfluous. Rather, the intelligent enterprise of the future will rely on intelligent augmentation to manage the complexity of the business environment in all aspects of the business. Instead of merely assisting an individual or a small group of individuals in their decision-making ability, the intelligent enterprise uses data analytics to ensure every decision at every level of the organization is guided by science and not intuition. The difference in scale is important.
Open innovation is reshaping the agricultural landscape. More than in other industries, agriculture has found the need to play technological catch-up. Advances in highly technical systems that use drones, sensors, and data analytics have created a demand for expertise not traditionally associated with ag. Consequently, most of the agricultural companies that are not currently taking advantage of open innovation will be doing so by the decade’s end. The rest may not be around much longer.