Tech’s a help, not a threat PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 09 September 2017 00:00
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Big benefit in areas like education and healthcare

Given no one really understands the enormity of the strides in artificial intelligence/tech, the doomsday predictions of what it will do for jobs could either be quite correct, or totally wrong. And while the progress is truly impressive, it is not clear if this is good enough to destroy the traditional jobs that humans do, nor is it clear what sectors tech will take over, or in what order. For now, what is clear, however, is that countries like India, so far from the productivity frontier, stand to benefit a lot more from tech—not only can this help contribute to dramatically increasing productivity, it can help overcome critical shortages in areas like healthcare and education.

An article in Wired that discusses an “intelligent” first-aid kit developed by Mobilize Rescue Systems gives a hint as to how this could pan out. The emergency kit, that comes equipped with the usual suspects like gauze, bandages, ointments, etc, even has tourniquets, chest seals and clotting agents—the real game-changer, though, is the iPad embedded in its lid. An interactive app, pre-loaded on to the device, has processed data from some 1,600 pages of triage and emergency-response decision-trees to help take the most appropriate, up-to-date course of emergency response. That makes it an on-the-spot manual on how to save a life. It provides step-by-step instructions on using the supplies in the kit to address threats by degree of associated ‘risk of death’ in the case of multiple injuries, via colour-coded illustrations, animations and planograms that play on the screen of the attached device. The $2,250 price tag makes it quite expensive, but imagine what such intelligent kits could do to fix India’s broken healthcare system, short of both doctors and expertise, especially in rural or far-flung areas.

India’s education system, as the annual ASER studies show, is in tatters; and with increasing numbers of educated-unemployed, it is clear there is a big gap between what is required and what is delivered. But, include a laptop pre-loaded with good AI-based learning solutions or, say, Coursera-type modules, and there can be a rapid step-up in the quality and relevance of education imparted by teachers aided by smart technology. Big data, going by what the taxman has been saying, is being used to detect tax-fraud and, in the case of agriculture, artificial intelligence and deep learning are coming up with solutions to, for instance, accurately predict crop production and help in timely insurance payouts. In the case of the Railways, use of AI by GE is already helping in predictive maintenance … The list of AI-based solutions is a long one and while there will be areas of large job losses, for now, India is going to benefit a lot more than it can possibly lose.


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