We take for granted the prospect of a future where machines can think, rather than just do. But the process for how we get from here to there is still rather unclear.
There are both challenges and opportunities ahead for the built environment, waiting to be identified.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies, together with robotics and virtual reality, could transform the built environment, increasing the efficiency of infrastructure design, delivery and maintenance. However, the technologies are all at different stages of development and the benefits are not yet fully understood.
Rather than seeing who can create the biggest rockets, countries and companies are now battling to see who can make the smallest chips, smartest robots and most complex machine-learning algorithms. While some have argued that AI will be our undoing, others see it as an opportunity to liberate us from drudgery and create overwhelming abundance.
Mark Farmer, author of the 2016 Farmer Review of the construction industry, has said the AI sector deal could have as much, if not more, impact on property and construction as construction’s own sector deal – and it is easy to see what he means.
The UK is a world leader in AI research, with several leading international companies based here. The recent government investment into AI research will help the UK maintain its competitive edge and shows a determination to diffuse innovation across all sectors.
Genuine artificial intelligence could have deep, dramatic effects on the fabric of the built environment, creating sensing, thinking, reactive buildings. AI in the architecture profession, combined with increasingly impressive advances in business information modelling, will change the way we approach buildings’ design and delivery. Many formulaic and repetitive aspects of the design process could be automated and iterated, freeing up time for the more creative, problem-solving side of the job, thus amplifying our talents and abilities.
Automation will not only eliminate menial tasks previously performed by junior staff, but management jobs, such as resource allocation, are well suited for algorithmic resolution
We shouldn’t fear AI, we should embrace it. Computers will eliminate lots of drudgery, but ultimately designing and communicating design to other people are emotional and intrinsic human skills.