If you hare having trouble understanding what can be achieved using expert systems, go test drive a Tesla Model X. Try the feature where the car parallel parks itself. Try the feature where the car backs into a parking spot. Try the feature where the car "drives itself", literally; you take your hands off the wheel and the vehicle stays in its lane, does not get too close to cars in front, etc.
Some people make the mistake of under estimating what a technology can offer. Others make the mistake of setting expectations incorrectly, thinking such things as "if you cannot have a fully automated car for 100% of circumstances then the technology is a failure". Both under-estimating and over-estimating the capabilities of a technology is a mistake. The media publishing misleading headlines like "Tesla's Cars Drive Themselves, Kinda" which completely miss, push some sort of agenda that they have and mislead consumers in the process are not really that helpful. But this type of misinformation is unfortunately not uncommon which puts people trying to understand where the technology really is can be challenging.
In this blog post I want to spell out the general benefits of an expert system without over-stating or under-stating those benefits. The benefits from the use of expert systems include:
- Automation: elimination of routine, boring, repetitive, mundane, mechanical tasks that can be automate
- Consistency: computers are good at performing repetitive, mechanical tasks whereas humans are not; computers do not make mistakes and are good at repeating exactly the same thing each time
- Diligence and tenacity: computers excel at paying attention to detail; they never get bored or overwhelmed and they are always available and will keep doing their job until the task is complete with the same attention to detail
- Reduced down-time: computer based expert systems are tireless and do not get distracted
- Availability: such computer based expert systems are always available simultaneously in multiple places at one time; you get quick response times and can replace absent or scarce experts
- Training: the best practices of the best practitioners can be available to those that are new to and learning about a domain of knowledge
- Longevity and persistence: computer based expert systems do not change jobs or retire so knowledge gathered by an organization can remain within that organization
- Productivity: computer based expert systems are cheaper that hiring experts and costs can be reduced a the same time that quality increases resulting in increased productivity
- Multiple opinions: Systems can integrate the view of multiple experts within a system and choose between the preferred view of multiple expert opinions in the same system
- Objectivity: computers apply the same inductive and deductive logic consistently; emotion and personal preferences can be eliminated where they should be eliminated
Nothing earth-shattering there, or at least so it might seem. But really think about it. What would the benefit be to professional accountants if productivity could be improved and the time it took for the month-end closing process could be reduced? What would it mean if you had an expert available to you to answer, say 50% of your questions related to the best approach to reporting some specific disclosure? How would training be different if expert systems existed?
There could be at least two different views as to whether expert systems are "good" or "bad". If all you know how to do is routine, mechanical, boring, repetitive tasks; expert systems might be considered a threat to your job.
But, if you are a knowledgeable expert which finds that they have to waste their time doing less productive routine, boring, repetitive tasks and expert systems would free you to perform work that has more value-add; then you might welcome expert systems.
How exactly will all this turn out? Hard to say. Wired speculates in their article, Will Machines Replace Us or Work With Us? Personally, I think machines will be useful teammates. As this article points out, computers cannot replicate: intuition, creativity, innovation, compassion, imagination, and so on.
One thing is for certain. If you don't understand what the true capabilities of computer are, you can mis-judge what aspects of your job computers might replace. That could put you at risk. Do what is necessary to remain relevant. Stay tuned and stay ahead of the game.