Man v. machine: When will AI exceed human performance?

AI is making its way into different industries, leaving many questioning whether their jobs are safe.
31 May 2018

Experts predict AI will be capable of working as a surgeon by 2053. Source: Shutterstock

Artificial intelligence is changing the world in many ways- and this is happening at a breakneck speed.

It seems that every week we’re hearing another story about how AI has made an explosive impact on yet another industry.

The Google I/O 2018 conference earlier this month highlighted just how advanced AI is becoming.

Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, unveiled many features that left the audience and millions of others viewing their smartphones in awe.

Amongst the features was Google Duplex, a “robotic secretary” that is able to make calls on your behalf to schedule a salon appointment, reserve a table at your favorite restaurant, and check the opening times of a store for you.

Not only is AI seeking to make the daily lives of individuals easier, it is also making many medical breakthroughs.

In fact, just this week, findings from a study revealed that AI is better at detecting skin cancer than dermatologists.

While AI technology is impacting a variety of industries in many beneficial ways, this raises the concern of when machines will be able to do a job better than us humans.

Since it seems that AI is already outperforming Doctors in some ways, it may be a good time to reflect back on a report released last year by researchers at the University of Oxford.

The report – named “When Will AI Exceed Human Performance? Evidence from AI Experts” – surveyed the world’s leading researchers in artificial intelligence.

These experts were asked their opinion on when they believe intelligent machines will outperform humans in a wide range of tasks.

Infographic on the survey results. Source:

Over 1,600 experts were asked to fill in a survey regarding when AI would be more efficient and cheaper than humans at a variety of tasks.

Of these experts, 352 responded, and from this their median responses were calculated.

The experts predict that AI will outperform humans within the next 10 years in tasks such as translating languages (by 2024), writing high school essays (by 2026), and driving trucks (by 2027).

According to the report, some tasks will take the AI robots much longer to master. For example, AI will not exceed humans capabilities at working in retail until 2031, and will not be able to write a bestselling book until 2049.

The 2017 report also predicts that AI will not be as capable of working as a surgeon as humans until 2053. Yet the recent news of AI detecting skin cancer better than dermatologists suggests this may be sooner than the experts think.

The experts also predict a 50 percent chance that AI will be better than humans “at more or less everything” in around 45 years.

This prediction is the medium figure from all of the experts who responded. Upon looking deeper into the subset of the group and their input into this 45-year figure, it was found that age and level of expertise made no difference to the prediction.

Interestingly though, the origin of respondents was found to impact prediction.

Researchers in North America expect AI to exceed humans in everything in 74 years, while those from Asia expect it in just 30 years.

This raises the question… do Asian researchers know something that North Americans don’t? Hmm…