By Alexandra Whittington
Before the pandemic, artificial intelligence (AI) was one of the most publicized threats in terms of existential threats to humanity. As of the last few years, AI is widely regarded as the key machine of the fourth industrial revolution, which was in full swing in 2020 prior to the virus.
Now that the world has been turned upside down by COVID-19, are there new human needs and perspectives that will impact how and when we welcome AI into our lives? I think there might be three main ways we could embrace AI in the post-pandemic period: Education, healthcare, and consumer experience.
Education: School re-openings are still an iffy prospect for many parents and education professionals alike. Could AI tutors or robotic teachers fill a void left by gaps in the K-12 and higher education community? Parents who choose not to re-enroll their kids in fall of 2020 may be on the search for personalized tutoring. Various forms of smart technology may be poised to meet that need.
Healthcare: Given the need for specialized health care expertise to deal with the pandemic, could robotic doctors, nurses, and other caregivers be replaced by robots? Robots don't get sick, don't spread germs, and they don't become exhausted, emotionally or physically, by long shifts in a pandemic ward.
Consumer experience: The pandemic has introduced us to “touch-free” consumer experiences, where we are able to obtain the goods we require without interacting with a human being. Could delivery robots, drones, and other AI incarnations soon replace human service and retail employees? What would the economic implications be?
Now that the COVID-19 event has occurred, is the fourth industrial revolution going to stall out or accelerate? It will be interesting to watch and find out.