When Professor Stephen Hawking, whose own voice system uses Artificial Intelligence (AI), warns that the creation of thinking machines poses a threat to the human race, should we be worried? How are businesses able to assess objectively the positive uses of advanced technologies when even the experts can’t make up their minds?

Here we explore some of the arguments surrounding AI and the impact on the language industry.

Experts warn of AI’s devastating potential

Speaking about a revamp of the Intel technology he uses to communicate, Professor Hawkins told the BBC: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

The eminent scientist is not alone in thinking that AI has the potential to be destructive– both SpaceX founder Elon Musk and Microsoft’s Bill Gates have spoken out about their concerns. While in a 2014 interview with students at the AeroAstro Centennial Symposium at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Elon Musk called the prospect of artificial intelligence “our greatest existential threat”

What’s more Bill Gates told Reddit earlier this year: “I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.” But is AI all bad news?

Artificial Intelligence as a force for good

Other experts are much more optimistic about how AI can be harnessed positively. British scientist Rollo Carpenter, inventor of Cleverbot, an Artificial Intelligence algorithm that enables conversations with humans, has commented: “I believe we will remain in charge of the technology for a decently long time and the potential of it to solve many of the world problems will be realised.”

“AI in the workplace could benefit the economy and will change the way we work”

Google founder and CEO Larry Page told the Financial Times that the advancement of AI in the workplace could benefit the economy and will change the way we work.

Rather than stealing jobs, the new technologies will create more, according to J.P. Gownder, an analyst with the Boston-based tech research firm Forrester: “In reality, automation will spur the growth of many new jobs—including some entirely new job categories.”

Harnessing the business opportunities of AI

Artificial Intelligence is already built into many of the systems businesses use on a regular basis. If you are booking a plane ticket online then the chances are that it is AI, and not a human, that is deciding the price you pay and where you sit. Technology research firm Tractica forecasts that cumulative revenue for the sector will total $43.5 billion worldwide during the period from 2015 through 2024.

Savvy businesses are already looking to AI to help them work smarter and more profitably. Industries working with complex systems and large data sets are most likely to benefit from AI and the language sector is no exception.

Technology Driven Communication

While AI and automated translation is currently unable to reproduce the benefits of expert linguists – software struggles to effectively detect the vital nuances of language – other attributes cannot be ignored.

When dealing with translated content accuracy is key – one error can change the meaning of a message. That’s why any tool which can flag inconsistencies based on a learned translation memory or remove the risk of human error in transposition offers real value.

“software alone struggles to effectively detect the vital nuances of language”

Improved automation too, can add to the process. Reducing the time taken in administration not only speeds up the process involved in supplying language solutions, but also enables Language Service Providers, such as thebigword to deliver genuine cost and efficiency savings to partners. That’s why over the past three years we have invested 30 per cent of our profits back into investment in ‘game changing’ technological development.

While language quality remains in the hands of the human, effectively implemented AI has a lot to offer the language services industry.