Anousheh Ansari says we’ll embrace AI and automation even more after Covid-19

Anousheh Ansari says we’ll embrace AI and automation even more after Covid-19
Image: Courtesy Anousheh Ansari
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It took a global pandemic and stay-at-home orders for 1.5 billion people worldwide, but something is finally occurring to us: The future we thought we expected may not be the one we get.

We know that things will change; how they’ll change is a mystery. To envision a future altered by coronavirus, Quartz asked dozens of experts for their best predictions on how the world will be different in five years.

Below is an answer from Anousheh Ansari, the CEO of design competition company XPRIZE. Her 11-day journey into space in 2006 made her the first female private space explorer, first astronaut of Iranian descent, first Muslim woman in space, and fourth private explorer to visit space.

Coronavirus has had a significant impact on our normal way of life in every aspect imaginable. Some of the changes we are experiencing will soon be forgotten, but many have impacted our behaviors permanently. Due to necessity, we accepted certain technologies into our lives that, under normal circumstances, we would have resisted. Now, the seeds for using these technologies in our day-to-day lives are sprouting faster than imagined.

The closures and the need for social distancing is forcing businesses to reevaluate every aspect of their business and eliminate human contact as much as possible. This is accelerating the move from factory floors to autonomous and intelligent systems to every part of the supply chain, delivery and transportation. From autonomous trucks to delivery bots and drones, we will most likely not see human delivery in five years.

One of the most significant ways life will be different in five years will stem from the impact of incorporating artificial intelligence and virtual reality/augmented reality systems in business. Meetings, doctor visits, even regular phone calls will benefit from massive advancements in VR/AR technologies. Who wants to wait in a doctor’s office with other sick people when you now can trust your AI augmented doctor to use a mobile app, and test results from the test kits that were delivered just a couple of days earlier to your doorstep, via the always-reliable drone delivery systems? With your VR headset attached to your phone, you feel as if you are in your doctor’s office, having a face to face conversation. Of course your doctor is not just talking to you, perhaps he/she is simultaneously talking to two other patients thanks to the AI-enabled avatar doctor. The avatar doctor knows all your medical history and can ask all the right questions based on your description of the symptoms and the test results that were transmitted to the office just an hour earlier. The avatar doctor is far more thorough and keeps up more easily with the fast pace of change and discovery that transformed the medical and diagnostic field. While you know the human doctor is only supervising the visit and not really talking to you, the avatar doctor is so real that you have a hard time telling otherwise. Your AI-enhanced avatar doctor thinks you are completely healthy but to rule out that it’s not a kidney stone, he/she is going to mail you a portable ultrasound unit and guide your hand through the gloves that came with the AR headset. The avatar doctor thinks the sharp lower pain you are experiencing is probably from over exercising a muscle but, since you have had a history of kidney stones, the ultrasound would give everyone peace of mind.

Now you think to yourself how silly it was to resist the new virtual doctor visits when they started in 2020. Why would anyone want to physically go to a doctor in 2025 instead of seeing an enhanced version of an “avatar doctor,” at your convenience, and from the comfort and privacy of your own home?

To read more New Normal answers, click here.