BUSINESS

The machines have taken over, almost

A robot holds a newspaper during a demonstration during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos.— FILE PHOTO: AFP

A robot holds a newspaper during a demonstration during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos.— FILE PHOTO: AFP  

Vast amounts of diverse data in disparate locations can be accessed and analysed often in real-time

Traditionally, computing systems perform tasks that humans programme them to do. But today, they can be trained to learn from their experiences and perform complex tasks.

This is possible as vast amounts of diverse data in disparate locations can be accessed and analysed often in real time, giving us mind-boggling insights.

Not surprisingly, machine learning is being widely adopted. The government of Andhra Pradesh uses Microsoft’s cloud-based predictive analytics service, Azure Machine Learning, to find out the students who are at a high risk of dropping out.

Wipro Holmes, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform developed by the IT major, can mimic human actions and is being used by financial institutions to automate tasks like KYC and credit-risk appraisal.

IBM has opened up its Watson ecosystem for business in India, by announcing partnership with two companies that will use cognitive technologies for tasks like identifying employees with leadership capabilities and getting real-time reports on factors that influence a company’s brand strength.

Better routing of resources:

The project with Andhra Pradesh Government involves collecting and analysing data on particulars like teachers, school infrastructure, students’ socioeconomic background etc and training a model based on the data.

“We keep tweaking it to make it more accurate, and validating it. Now, we have more than 93 per cent accuracy on this model,” said Anil Bhansali, Managing Director, Microsoft India (R&D). About 6.50 lakh students of tenth standard have been covered.

The insights can help the government allocate resources judiciously.

“No need to sprinkle money across different schools without knowing what to do. If I know this student is at risk or this school has students likely to drop out, I can target my interventions better,” he said.

The AP Government has now asked Microsoft to do the exercise across all classes. Principal Secretary, Secondary Education Department, Andhra Pradesh, R.P. Sisodia, said, “We now have a 360-degree view of students, mapped to close to 100 variables. Through this solution, the AP Government has 90 per cent confidence levels in predicting dropouts and is confident of acquiring a more nuanced understanding of the situation.”

Wipro Holmes is designed to mimic human actions, simplifying a complicated chain of processes, said K.R. Sanjiv, Chief Technology Officer, Wipro.

It can read and analyze multiple sources of information (structured and unstructured) documents, ingest data and assist the analyst in decision making.

“This leads to a drastic reduction in KYC efforts and turn-around time, which translates to huge cost savings, higher consistency and accuracy for our customers in the financial services sector,” he said.

Bing predictions:

Microsoft’s search engine Bing uses relevant data to make intelligent predictions about events, like sports, reality TV show etc.

In the recently held Australian Open, in the men’s singles, Bing correctly predicted 97 out of 127 matches (76.38 per cent) besides the four quarter-finals and two semi-finals. In the women’s singles, too, Bing got the four quarter-finals and both semi-finals right besides 86 of the 127 matches (67.72 per cent).

In last year's Cricket World Cup, Bing correctly predicted Australia would win the final and the outcome of 6 of the 7 knockout stage matches. Overall, Bing correctly called the winner in 40 of 48 matches (83 per cent accuracy).

In the Scottish Referendum of 2014, Bing correctly predicted Scotland would vote to stay with the UK.

Machines, a threat?



While artificial intelligence and cognitive computing have made our lives easier in many ways, there is also concern as to where it will all end up.

Physicist Stephen Hawking, addressing the Zeitgeist 2015 conference in London in May last year, sounded a word of caution. “Computers will overtake humans with AI at some point within the next 100 years. When that happens, we need to make sure the computers have goals aligned with ours,” TechWorld quoted him saying.

Musk sees AI as threat

Investor Elon Musk sees AI as a threat, according to a report in The Guardian . “I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that... I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight… just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish,” he said.

AI, a bane or boon? Perhaps the clue lies in the ubiquitous autocorrect feature on our phones — while the device prompts the next word, it’s up to us to use it.



Microsoft’s search engine Bing uses relevant data to make intelligent predictions about events



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