The Infosys Labs research blog tracks trends in technology with a focus on applied research in Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

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Resetting Robot's Dream

"Cal is a helper house-Robot owned by Mr. Northrop, an author and technology enthusiast. Mr. Northrop is a prolific writer and sometimes loses track of other activities, he likes the way Cal picks up after him, runs his printer, stacks his disks, and other things. He doesn't need a complicated robot and Cal surely fits in. But Cal is a special robot with a level of intelligence not completely explored and with time Cal develops curiosity and interest in writing. More like being influenced by the author persona of his master. As Mr. Northrop comes to know Cal's interest he decides to upgrade Cal with dictionary, vocabulary, grammar, and other essentials for writing stuff. Cal starts writing, initially he wrote random letters like gibberish. But with more upgrades and advice from Mr. Northrop, Cal got better and better. After few attempts Cal wrote a satire with perfect sense of the ridiculous, Mr. Northrop read the story 2-3 times; a sudden feeling of insecurity came to him, what if Cal writes more stories and continues to improve each time? Mr. Northrop decided to undo all improvements and reset Cal as it was when he bought. "

Above is the summary of science fiction short story written by Isaac Asimov in 1991. He wrote many stories on robotics and often credited with devising Three laws of Robotics, which was adapted into  Hollywood sci-fi action film "I, Robot" starring Will Smith.

The vision on future of robotic automation and questions raised by Asimov on freedom of choice is even more relevant in era growing practice of AI. The core issue, that may have prompted Mr. Northrop to take the reset route, is his inability to appreciate the robots did and the grey area around robots decision making which is incomprehensible. Recently Facebook was experimenting with chatbots which were to negotiate among each other for ownership of virtual items, but after a few rounds the AI programs seemed to be interacting in a language that only they understood; Facebook had to shut down the experiment.

Transparency is a major factor that we need to address for building sustainable AI systems, in above case had Mr. Northrop knew that Cal was only trying to mimic him for extending help rather than being a competition, his action could have been different. Along with that interpretability and explainability of decision taken by AI systems would nullify grey areas, thereby building confidence among user community on trustworthiness of the systems. The factors will be crucial as organizations sail through the transformation journey of industry 4.0 where AI will have significant penetration across industry verticals.

To stay ahead with the AI curve, Organizations must build trust in their AI application. That will also speed up adoption of AI application among the stakeholders within and outside the organizations. For example, there is huge potential for AI in banking sector. In areas like traditional loan approval value chain from application to disbursement, AI can be applied at stages such as validation, due diligence, and approval; but lack of trust & transparency in AI applications hinders the adoption of AI led loan evaluation process. There are many such cases across industries like customer recommended in retail, optimizing the distribution of energy, fraudulent reimbursement in insurance etc.

Moving on to digital era we will be surrounded smart AI systems and would interacting with real life CAL s for day-in day-out. So, it's our imperative to build robust mechanism for explainability as well as trusted and sustainable AI systems.


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