Be Artificial

Be Artificial

mediumThis post was originally published by Martin Vanags at Medium [AI]

The promise of artificial intelligence and machine learning holds promise for economic development and local leaders.

Scary, isn’t it? Everything is scary when you lack information. The lack of knowledge drives fear. The first time a caveman heard a predator outside his cave scared the living “you know what” out of him. Why? Because he didn’t know what it was. And although it took some time there came a time where we as humans weren’t fearful of the lion or large mammal that could eat us because we came up with technology to defeat this enemy.

First we used rocks, then we we used big sticks (clubs) then we combined the two by tying the rocks to the sticks and coming up with a mallet, then someone in another cave made the rock smaller and sharper and tied onto a skinny stick and called it spear and so forth and so on.

They came up with a word for this constant tinkering and change. They called it innovation. Soon they feared no more. Although some still pined for the “good ‘ol days”. That thought process still happens today. Today we fear robots and artificial intelligence because we fear the unknown. Even Elon Musk our modern day rocket man and de facto innovator in chief, warns of the danger of artificial intelligence and its menace. What is it that he does not know?

Artificial Intelligence and machine learning is already upon us and has impacted our lives. Anyone who has used Netflix, Siri, Alexa, or Facebook which makes up a majority of Americans has been impacted by artificial intelligence.

How will artificial intelligence and machine learning change how cities operate and how economic development occurs? Here are five ways the new age of digital intelligence will impact our worlds:

  1. Jobs — Artificial Intelligence will do away with the “middle-man” (my apologies for the gender specific phraseology). The person in the middle brokering transactions will disappear. This person managed flow in a deal. The individual who was the broker will gradually become expendable. The broker, the salesman, the site consultant will go the way of the buggy whip. With machine learning a good algorithm will take the preferences of thousands if not millions of data and decision points and be able to pick the best new location for the next Amazon logistics center or whatever big project coming to the town nearest you. I would bet Amazon has already been using this information to locate their warehouses and logistics centers if not their new headquarters.
  2. Growth — Smart Cities will create smart development — The smart city, the cities that gather data about residents, particularly how much water they use, how many times they flush the toilet, travel habits, traffic congestion, air pollution, pedestrian and foot traffic, and anything else they can “sense” and use it to make smarter and more efficient decisions about development will prosper. Today we use our best practices of land development, zoning, utility location and other 20th century tools to decide what road to improve, which sewer to expand and what sidewalk to build. The sensors that gather that information will give us billions of data points that can be fed into our predictive algorithms to help us decide what to do next. No more will decisions need to be made using our best guesstimate. Will some politicians ignore this information and make opposing decisions anyway? Yes, some things will never change.
  3. See the Future through the Internet of Things (IoT) — The IoT will allow us to forecast problems before they happen. The linking together of seemingly non-linear and linear systems will allow us to “see” things in the future and be proactive. Today, sensors built into water meters, pumps, lift stations and other points on a municipal water system can point out weaknesses in a system and forecast the likely spot for failure whether it is a water main break or someone’s leaky toilet. Adoption of these systems will save countless disasters and money as well. Already sensors measure weather and climate conditions so well that we can predict within feet the location of a hurricane landfall allowing emergency personnel to prepare.
  4. Save Money; It will make us more efficient — Smart technology will allow our cities to be smart about the services we provide and do it more efficiently. In Spain, public garbage cans are equipped with a sensor that gives decision makers information about which receptacles are full and which are empty. This allows for more efficient route management and saves time, money, fuel and reduces carbon emission.
  5. Less Meetings — It will reduce our need for travel — Artificial intelligence will reduce our need to travel for business. Bad news for the airlines, but the post-pan (my new word for life after the pandemic), meeting-world will look completely different. In fact, you will see smaller and more flexible air service models used that create more personal space. But who hasn’t already become accustomed to a Zoom call or some other virtual meeting technology. Artificial intelligence will help us make the right decisions on how and when to travel.

The world is changing fast and faster than ever before. Our challenge is how we are going to deal with it. As leaders in economic development I will argue once agains that we are looking at economic development through 20th century lenses. As civic leaders our fear of taxpayer backlash is causing us to not make the right investments for an efficient and effective future.

But no worries, the machines are going to take over. In the long run none of us will have jobs. Our decisions will be made for us. We will either be enjoying a rum-filled, mini-umbrella decorated fruity garnished drink on the beach basking in post-pan vaccine induced splendor or we will be staring at a computer screen wondering why the hell this thing doesn’t let me pick the font size and style. Love it or hate it!

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This post was originally published by Martin Vanags at Medium [AI]

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