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Autonomous systems on the rise.

The AI market is definitely growing and autonomous systems are expected to take a big share of it, surpassing AI value in Expert Systems. Credit: BCC Research, Wellesley Ma, US

I have been discussing for quite a bit now the technologies that are making autonomous systems possible. Indeed, the forecast is towards an increase of their presence in the next decade.

Artificial Intelligence is at the core of autonomous systems. It will permeate them in different degrees, the more autonomous they are and the more challenging the environment they will be operating in the more AI will be required.

BCC Research is foreseen the application of AI in Autonomous Systems will overtake in terms of market value the “classic” application of AI, that is in Expert Systems (see graphic). This is interesting because it signals a shift towards the embedding of AI (it has already started, as an example our digital cameras embed some AI to make decision on the best exposure, to recognise faces…) and embedding leads to the disappearance of that technology from our perception, making it a mature technology.

At the same time this loss of perception and the presence of autonomous systems in our everyday life (meaning, as well, our increasing dependence on them along with our taking them for granted) creates new issues.

  • Can we really trust these systems? Would a trivial vacuum cleaner become a potential spy having the intelligence to be one?
  • Even if we trust these systems, isn’t there a possibility of malicious hacking that might transform them without us being aware of what is happening?
  • In case of symbiosis, particularly one involving us, would the intelligence of an autonomous system in symbiotic relationship alter the overall balance (without us becoming aware of it). What if we are coming to rely on a wearable system to connect us to information seamlessly, like an intelligent contact lens or in the future a direct BCI connection linking our brain to the web, and for some reason this symbiotic component is hijacked or just takes the upper hand in the decision making process?
  • What about the advantage that owning such symbiotic relation will bring to some and not to the have nots? Is embedded AI going to create a wide gap among those who can benefit from it and those who don’t?
  • Will enterprise favour hiring people having augmented intelligence, would some require augmentation as part of the job as today they require us to use a computer?

The list of questions is getting longer and longer as we are starting to walk this new path. Formulating these questions and addressing them is an integral part of the FDC Symbiotic Autonomous Systems Initiative.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.