AI tech

Let us for a moment, take a break from the media endlessly telling us about ravages caused by repetitive electricity blackouts in 25 towns and villages. Summer is for fun and relaxation but with repetitive heatwaves reaching 40 degrees celsius, we cannot stay at home or sleep at night when unannounced blackouts last for hours.

The good news is that the incidence of COVID cases (mostly from travellers infected by the Delta variant) is slowing down. With the spread of the Delta and possibly Omega strains showing signs of rapid growth, the only consolation is that Malta has been one of the fastest countries when it concerns the inoculation of persons over 16 years of age. That gives us some relief and possibly a modicum of protection from herd immunisation.

Surely, this is pennies from heaven. We rejoice as we count our blessings that humanity will reap from the benign qualities of Artificial Intelligence (AI). This resource can be of great value -alas forget for the moment the surreal fantasy of Blockchain madness in 2017 that intoxicated Castille bigwigs and later led to its obfuscation. This time there are tangible advances of AI in biotech, molecular experiments and its accessory components of ubiquitous data, high-speed connections, and autonomous robots. Many efforts have been undertaken to accelerate AI research in order to combat this pandemic and develop vaccines.

This is fast becoming a major technological tool for prescriptive analytics, the step beyond predictive analytics that helps us determine how to implement and/or optimize optimal decisions. In business applications, it can assess future risks, quantify probabilities and in so doing, give us insights how to improve market penetration, customer satisfaction, security analysis, trade execution, fraud detection and prevention, while proving indispensable in land and air traffic control, national security and medical health.

This is not to mention a host of healthcare applications such as patient-specific treatments for infectious diseases and illnesses. In his original essay, Dr Vinge suggested that the point in time at which machines attained superhuman intelligence would happen sometime between 2005 and 2030. 

It is now for real. This technology now enables our digital devices to not just facilitate dialogue between humans but take an active role in such dialogue.  With advances in Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing technologies, it may soon be possible to have digital assistants that are able to understand dialogue in a much wider variety of contexts and complexity rather than simple rote commands.

Only recently, the European Commission published its proposal for a regulation aimed at harmonising the regulation of Artificial Intelligence throughout the 27 member countries. It focuses its jurisdictional scope on how it will affect companies producing or using AI systems even outside of the EU if such systems, or their outputs, are to be used in the EU.

The proposed regulation aims at instilling trust in the use of AI systems. It sets out to do this by adopting a risk-based approach with respect to the particular uses of AI systems. Depending on the risks associated with the intended use of an AI system, that AI system may require certification, or its production or use within the EU may even be prohibited. 

On a positive note, imagine how in the near future, there will be robots: efficient and devoid of emotions quietly supervising hundreds of complex factory operations-possibly during the temporary absence of workers cordoned off under an extended quarantine mandated during pandemics.

With a growing problem of shortage of skilled workers following the disruption of certain sectors by the virus, certainly, the unions lament that alternative use of intelligent robots may appear a grim one. One hopes that science will harness our combined efforts to regain lost productivity endangered by the pandemic. 

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