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At Home In the Republic

By Terence C.M. Tse, Mark Esposito, and Danny Goh

AI’s threat to humanity has been overplayed, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a major driving force in the technology and business world that is going to irrevocably change the way we live. Even though we may not know what our destination will end up being, we certainly know which directions we are going. And for sure, humans will be working hand-in-hand with machines in an ever-increasing number of activities. The “merger” of man and computers began long ago, the moment we accepted technologies into our lives.

We are using more and more digital devices in day-to-day activities. In fact, in many respects, people have not just welcomed the use of but delegated responsibilities to machines. Just ask yourself how many of us still memorize telephone numbers these days? How many people still resort to reading maps going from point A to point B? We would always prefer to be guided rather than having to figure out the ways ourselves. At the same time, we are becoming more inclined to hand over privacy in exchange for convenience, as we are too happy to take advantage of “free” apps and online services by paying for them in the form of data.

This trend will only go on with improving machine intelligence as it will be able to assume — and automate — more and more important roles that humans have played in the past (think driverless cars). An implication is that our next social and technological developments will be much less dictated by governments, with their power to control diminishing. Instead, our choices will be shaped and informed by the available technologies (created by companies, in particular the tech giants) and how the others use them. The number of “likes” or “stars” in rating you get don’t come from the state; they are given by other humans. Twitter is more powerful than tear gas.

The fact that the choice of how to charge ahead into the future and even the fate of nations lies in how human beings interact with AI — and how human intelligence is best combined with artificial ones — leads us to think that AI is effectively creating a republic. The Oxford Dictionary defines “republic” as “a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.”

While we are less concerned with the second part of the definition, we strongly believe that with the rise of intelligent automation, the power of shaping the future is in the building of the nexus between humans and AI. Whether this will represent a force of good or bad really depends on how much we understand and how we use AI technologies. To us, now is the time to seek and deepen such understanding.

This book is written with this in mind. It tries to address AI’s huge transformative potential for businesses and society. It attempts to shed light on the reality of what AI technology can do and what it will be capable of in the future. It will offer explanations of the different terminology and jargon we use to talk about AI. We will also have a deeper discussion on the broader implications of AI’s increasing presence in our lives.

There is a lot of conversation right now on how to reconcile the capabilities of people and machines. While this is an important conversation, it’s not the purpose of this book. This book will skirt the moral and philosophical questions that surround AI and leave that for others to tackle. Instead, we would like to explain the context surrounding these conversations. We will discuss the historical legacy of AI technology, some of which has been around for many years. We will also discuss the triggers that cause this technology to accelerate in capability and use. We would like to help people recognize how and why they might employ AI in their own organization, or city, or country. Drawing on our experiences at Nexus FrontierTech with helping our clients to integrate AI into their business capabilities, we will suggest a few ideas as to how companies can start to put AI into their organizations.

AI is not the answer to all our problems. There are many situations where employing AI could be detrimental to a business. The goal is not to simply replace old for new but to examine how AI can help advance the trajectory of your products or services. It’s a matter of figuring out the things that machines should do and could do better.

In the latter part of the book, we will look at what governments can and should do to take advantage of this technology, and the implications of doing so. Given that all three of us have children, we believe that it is a worthy exercise to examine how parents can help prepare the next generations to fit into the economy of the future.

AI is constantly evolving, and society is being forced to evolve along with it. The ultimate question to ask yourself as you read is this: what are the things you should be doing today to prepare for the world of tomorrow?

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This an excerpt fromThe AI Republic: Building the Nexus Between Humans and Intelligent Automation by Terence C.M. Tse, Mark Esposito, and Danny Goh.

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