Think Again: Is Robotics Limited to Automating the Mundane?

How many of us, a decade back, would have imagined that there would come a day when machines, much like a Beethoven or Mozart, would write original songs? Or like a Picasso, wield the brush to create a masterpiece? But it is very much a reality today. The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is making the seemingly unthinkable thinkable.

Not that long ago, researchers from a university in Germany published a paper on a system that could interpret personal styles of renowned painters. Driving the system was a sophisticated artificial neural network that could mimic how a brain finds patterns in objects. The researchers had tutored the system to understand how some of these famous painters used colors, lines and other key aspects so that it could reinterpret regular images by incorporating styles of those artists. In fact, there are now systems that are going a step further, creating altogether new pieces of music.

Recently, a Paris-based collector known for his penchant for collecting urban art by human artists, purchased a creation made by AI. Remarkably, the creation didn’t involve any human intervention. When asked, the collector said that he was surprised that such amazing levels of creativity could come from a machine.

But is copying a style true creativity? Is it not the case that some of an artist’s best works come from them doing something novel, and reinventing their art?

Moving to the world of business, robotic process automation (RPA) could become a game changer for enterprises, given its ability to automate highly repetitive tasks. Enough has already been said and written about the technology’s propensity to improve productivity, save time and costs, and how the technology could take the mundane tasks off employees’ plates, enabling them to focus on the strategic ones. However, one area, where businesses have not been concentrating is how robotics could assist with tasks that are complex and require discretion and value judgement. Perhaps, this is understandable since nobody can immediately foresee the implications and repercussions that might result. There is risk there.

It might seem unlikely, at this point, that a machine could think or analyze precisely like a human brain. However, if a system can mimic human behavior well enough to create original works of art, it might someday use that same ability to influence business decisions and perhaps even make the really important ones. Or perhaps it might just appear to have that ability. Then again, perhaps we human decision-makers just appear to have that ability too. Makes you think.       


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