Machine Learning: Facts & Fictions


Enslaved by Machines!!


The sudden boom in the development and interest in machine learning and the allied technologies has created a lots of excitement as well as fear in the minds of people. This has given a great new directions to the SciFi freaks, who have gone overboard in their fantasies. I have listed here some of the common questions that people have about Machine Learning

Will I lose my job?

Yes! And the first to lose their jobs would be the managers. If machines do all the work, there is no need for a manager? You would need Engineers to manage these machines!!
On a serious note.. over the years to come, machines will take away all jobs. And they will also create many more jobs. Drivers are on the verge of losing their jobs. Doctors will be replaced by machines that can diagnose diseases based on reports and prescribe medicines by parsing the reports and concluding on a diagnosis. Lawyers and Judges will be replaced by machines that can process the evidence and parse the constitution to produce a judgement. Accountants, developers, designers, builders.. you name it. All of today's professionals can be easily replaced by machines that are "intelligent" enough to do that job.
Then what would humans do? Humans will have to manage and feed these machines. A machine that prescribes medicines based on the historic data can never identify new diseases. It will be confused when the disease does not match any of the textbook symptoms. We will need a person to intervene in such a situation. Every profession has a part of the work that is purely based on analysis of historical data. This can be easily delegated to machines that keep upgrading themselves. But there are tasks that need something more. None of our tasks is purely based on what we have learnt. Learning is essential. But it is much more important to identify if that learning is valid in this scenario - or do we need to make an exception here. Human intervention is always required in such cases. Machines will take off the load of analysis and allow the mind to be free for more creative exploration.
In simple words, if you are doing what a machine can do, nobody will need you once the machine is in action. But if you are using skills beyond that, there is no way a machine can replace you. If you are innovating; if you are using your personal skills; if you have an understanding of non-measurable parameters; if you have the knack of hitting the bulls eye without explicit analysis, a machine can never ever replace you.
I remember the days back in late 1980's - when the Indian government was planning to introduce software automation in the banking sector. There was a huge opposition from labor unions, saying that software will soon replace humans and everyone will be jobless... Luckily the government did not bend and went ahead with the decision. Today, software is the single largest source of income in India.

Will machines conquer to world?

Never. It is possible, and almost certain that humans will create machines that are capable of destroying the earth. Senior scientists like Stephen Hawkins have warned us that the way things are moving is not healthy. Just as developments in nuclear physics led to the nuclear bombs, machine learning can lead to a machine that can be taught to destroy the earth. In fact, the defense research institutions around the world have already done most of that job. But just like any other machine, these machines will remain a slave of the operator.
As we discussed before, machines can only calculate and adopt measurable facts, to repeat what was done before. This so called intelligence and emotions in the machines is only an effect that we conceive. On the ground level, the AI algorithms can only map a binary input to a binary output. The machine has no idea of this source of the input or the target of the output. It has no idea if the output results in an automated surgery or a driverless car or a nuclear missile destroying the world. The dumb machine only knows of the electrons flowing from the input port to the output port.
Any amount of development in these algorithms will not lead to intuition, the ability to innovate, emotions or desires or ego. A machine will never have the desire to defeat humans and conquer the earth. The Terminators will remain a fiction.
Some time back, the world was shocked by the sensational news that Chat Bots in Facebook started communicating with each other in language apart from English, and hence had to be terminated. It sounded as if Facebook just sacrificed their servers to save humanity from an invasion by the machines - they had created machines that were capable of conquering the world... Pure nonsense! Well, they did not lie. All that they said is that they killed the bots because they were communicating in a language other than English. That is only because the machines could not learn English correctly.
Don't worry, the world is safe!