TECH TALK | AI, the quiet achiever working in the background of our lives | Western Advocate


Before COVID-19 hit the world, there were six aged care facilities in the region that I would regularly visit – sometimes with one of my children – to deliver a presentation on technology or perform poetry for the residents. On some occasions, I might be interrupted during my presentation by one of the residents. I dismissed it as a resident being a bit cantankerous. Sometimes my kids would comment that a particular person seemed rude. Other residents would tell me the person in question could be a little ‘difficult’. Well, it turns out that the behaviour of some residents may not be the result of impoliteness but the result of pain. And the source of this information? Artificial Intelligence (AI)! Now, I understand that there are times when AI gets a bad rap. AI conjures up images of the Terminator franchise or The Matrix where machines are taking over the world and humans are a minor annoyance. The incredibly popular Westworld is a continuing story of the evolution of AI in control. As the brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking once commented, the emergence of AI could be the “worst event in the history of our civilisation” so you can understand why there is some apprehension in the community. AI taking away our jobs is one thing – but the destruction of mankind? That seems a little more serious. While we wait for Rehoboam to control our lives, there are huge advantages in AI. Back to those aged care residents. New technology is currently under development that will allow micro-expressions on a person’s face to identify the presence and severity of pain. After 180,000 assessments so far across 16,000 residents, the results show that up to 80 per cent of aged care residents are suffering from chronic pain. With 53 per cent of those same residents suffering from dementia and many unable to adequately express themselves, this pain is often undiagnosed. Behaviour of residents that is often dismissed as argumentative or even aggressive is often just a person in pain. And the best hope for these residents? Artificial Intelligence! Now I understand that not all of us are in an aged care facility – although I hope many of us make it that far – but AI is working away in many other parts of our life. When we open up the main screen of our favourite streaming service, AI analyses billions of records and matches them against what we have viewed before, including the viewing time of day, and makes recommendations based around all of that information. Eighty per cent of what we watch is driven by an AI recommendation. Music streaming services are possibly even a step ahead. Based on several hundred musical characteristics, songs are analysed and classified and recommended based on our listening history and, seemingly by magic, we are listening to songs that we inherently love! When I was organising a charity bicycle ride last year, my credit card was automatically blocked by my bank’s AI. Multiple transactions at different service stations, supermarkets and motels over a series of days were flagged as ‘unusual’ and it was assumed my card was stolen. In this case, the transactions were legitimate but it was comforting to know that AI was watching. Lastly, there is a pretty good chance that the level of comfort of our retirement will depend on the success of AI as many Superannuation funds are entirely managed by AI systems. It is both a scary and exciting world we are currently navigating – but AI is a part of that future roadmap. Tell me your greatest hope for AI at

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