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Learning to love AI

Jan 07,2019
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A customer takes a picture as robotic arms collect pre-packaged dishes from cold storage according to the diners’ orders at Haidilao’s new artificial-intelligence (AI) hotpot restaurant in Beijing on Nov. 14, 2018. [REUTERS/YONHAP]
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Kim Byoung-pil
The author is a professor at the School of Business and Technology Management at Kaist.

“Artificial” is not a positive word. Artificial things are often not as good as natural ones. Artificial sweeteners are not as good as natural sweeteners and artificial lakes are not as beautiful as natural ones. Artificial things can also be dangerous. For example, artificial rainfall during a drought can lead to a more severe drought. So we easily assume that artificial things are inferior to natural ones.

The bad connotation of “artificial” also affects artificial intelligence (AI). AI is considered something to be feared, dangerous and cold. Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey” features a terrifying AI. Spaceship crew members try to turn off the main computer based on their judgment that the AI is malfunctioning.

However, the AI murders a crew member and disguises it as an accident to prevent being switched off. The story is extreme, but it vividly depicts the basis of people’s fear of AI. Predictions that AI’s development might take away our jobs or aggravate disparity by widening the gap between large corporations and small businesses are based on this vague fear.

However, the development and application of AI around me makes me think that these concerns are ungrounded and, perhaps, exaggerated.

A professor of electric engineering who majored in communications is researching how AI can be used to detect hacking attempts. A business school professor studying marketing is also working on a study that uses AI to analyze diverse factors that affect movie revenue. A lawyer who worked for a big law firm moved to a start-up company that offers legal advice using AI. They all use AI technology to bring about new development in their fields of expertise: in a nutshell, the AI frontier is opening up in all areas.

I think that a fear of AI is rooted in a lack of understanding. Today’s AI technologies should be seen as a useful tool to use across all society. Just as a good carpenter uses good tools, AI technologies serve as a useful tool for those dreaming of innovation.

AI is employed in various fields, including economics, management, social science, psychology, law, science and engineering. Kaist actively recommends new students take AI classes regardless of their majors. No matter which major they choose and which field of study they focus on, students should have the ability to understand and utilize AI technologies.

Today, companies must not fear or misunderstand AI as the exclusive property of IT companies. Just as AI became a class for all Kaist students, all business students should be required to study AI.

As they investigate, they will be surprised that there are infinite ways to use AI to improve the administrative and production process. 2019 has just begun: in the new year, I recommend everyone overcome their misunderstandings of AI and pledge to study it properly.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 2, Page 27