Artificial intelligence

AI needs more research to cut costs to benefit more people, says data science expert

While the advancement of AI technology could eliminate certain jobs, it could also improve people’s quality of life and adaptability to find new roles

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 September, 2017, 7:31am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 September, 2017, 10:50pm

Artificial intelligence (AI) today requires much research to make further technological breakthroughs, lower entry barriers and bring costs down, enabling more people and companies to use the technology for innovation, according to an Alibaba data science executive.

“Artificial intelligence today has already surpassed humans in certain aspects, such as processing and analysing large amounts of data ... and making predictions based on the data it has,” said Hua Xiansheng, deputy managing director at the Alibaba Group Institute of Data Science and Technology at the InnoTech Expo 2017 in Hong Kong on Monday.

“But there are still some disadvantages of AI. It doesn’t understand emotion ... You cannot yet discuss deep topics with AI, only on a very shallow level. Unlike humans, AI also cannot create something completely new, it has to draw on previous data and patterns ... more research is required for AI.”

Alibaba, which operates e-commerce marketplaces like Tmall, Taobao and is also the owner of the South China Morning Post, has already implemented features in its Taobao mobile app that draw on artificial intelligence technology.

Unlike humans, AI also cannot create something completely new, it has to draw on previous data and patterns ... more research is required for AI
Hua Xiansheng, Alibaba Cloud Institute of Data Science and Technology

When users want to search for a specific item, such as a uniquely patterned mug or blouse, it can be difficult to try and describe the item in words when searching for it on Taobao, Hua said, adding that this is where AI and computer vision come in handy.

Users of the Taobao app can simply snap a picture of their desired item and computer vision technology scans the image to match it with relevant listings on the marketplace, Hua said.

Other examples of how computer vision and AI technology can be applied are in medical diagnoses for X-rays, which will help doctors do their jobs more efficiently.

AI will also come in handy in smart city applications, such as the smart regulation of traffic lights after computer vision technology uses cameras to determine how congested roads are.

While Hua acknowledged that the advancement of AI technology means that there are certain jobs, such as customer service representatives, which could be replaced by chatbots and robots, he said that people would likely have a better quality of life and adapt to find other roles.

“The people whose jobs were eliminated by the Industrial Revolution didn’t starve, they found other opportunities,” said Hua. “[AI will help] improve and advance society.”

“In fact, with AI doing more manual labour, it gives people more time to focus on themselves, to innovate and create. It’s not necessarily a bad thing.”