Prepare for Pepper

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5 September 2016

Artificial intelligence and robotics are advancing at lightning speed. Doomsayers claim we are about to open a Pandora’s box with dire consequences. Are these concerns justified? ing.world investigates.

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Humanoid robot Pepper can recognise emotions and adapt his behaviour accordingly. This week, Pepper visited ING’s headquarters in Amsterdam to make some new friends. [01:20]

Earlier this week, ING welcomed a very special visitor. They say he is a genuine day-to-day companion, who can perceive emotions and loves to interact with people. More so, he loves to learn about people’s tastes and personality traits, so he can adapt his behaviour accordingly.

And believe it or not, he’s a robot, called Pepper.

ING’s robotics and artificial intelligence lead Vinoth Raman, brought in Pepper, the world’s first humanoid robot. He wanted to get people thinking about robotics and the future of artificial intelligence.

Transcending limitations

As stated in the lead story “Why we should (not) fear artificial intelligence”, the big dream and promise of AI is that mankind can one day transcend its limitations. Computers that can think thousands of times faster than we can and process infinitely more information. Robots that never need rest and can work under extreme circumstances. The possibilities seem endless.

But not everyone is optimistic. World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking has been warning for years that AI, and particularly its military applications, could herald the end of mankind. Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Apple legend Steve Wozniak and Tesla boss Elon Musk share similar concerns.

Adaptive robots

Shimon Whiteson, who carries out research at Oxford University into how computers can learn, thinks that people who fear that computers will take over the world assume a ‘false opposition’ between computers and humans.

“In reality, these boundaries will become steadily blurred. Humans and robots will not oppose each other, but will increasingly collaborate and interact.”

So what does the future hold? Guszti Eiben, professor in Computational Intelligence at VU University Amsterdam, sees the way forward in ‘adaptive robots’ that evolve and learn to adapt to human beings. That’s something we as humans will have to get used to.

“We are accustomed to machines always behaving in the same way,” he says.

“They do exactly what we designed them to do. But if machines become adaptive, that will no longer be the case. That has great advantages.”

Over the next couple of decades, people are going to be essentially out-competed.

–Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots

Martin Ford

Martin Ford

Augmented intelligence, adaptive robots, what should all this mean for us? In the same ing.world edition, Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots, has some advice for bankers.

“Don’t be doing routine things. All of that is susceptible [to technology]. Much of the back office work has already been automated. Just recently, Goldman Sachs bought a start-up company that’s doing the analysis that their Wall Street analysts used to do – the people working in investment banking and sitting in front of spreadsheets all day. Robo-advisors are also starting to take over routine financial planning.

“So the best advice for a banker is to do something that really involves people, clients and managing client relationships.”

ING and AI: portfolio management

Digital portfolio management is one of ING’s innovation priorities. We spoke to Martin Krebs, global head of retail investment product solutions, on the progress ING is making. ING Direct France, for example, is a pioneer having introduced a digital investment coach called Coach Épargne (‘Savings Coach’). The next step is to delegate the entire portfolio management process to algorithms. This is called digital delegated portfolio management, also known as robo-advice, and is currently ING’s development focus in Germany.

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