Sarine Move Shows that AI Forcing Industries Everywhere To Re-Adapt

If, in retrospect, in 2018 there seemed to be articles almost every day relating to the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its effect on jobs and the economy, we can reasonably expect to read even more this year. Investment in the sector is huge, with China, reportedly, leading the way, channeling as much as $10 billion annually into the field.

That has led, needless to say, to many apocalyptic articles suggesting that the age of the common worker is over. AI is expected, in the coming years, to automate millions, tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of jobs. Some see mass unemployment as a natural corollary.

Within the next decade, AI is expected to be able to write a high school essay and drive vehicles better than a human being can, some analysts believe there is a 50% chance that AI will outperform all human tasks within 45 years and automate all jobs in the next century. Then again, as far back as the mid-1970s, a paperless office was predicted by 1990. Look around your office and see how far that idea has come.

The development of AI solutions in recent years has been extraordinary. Two years ago, Google’s DeepMind lab came up with a machine that could beat a professional player at the ancient board game Go. Called AlphaGo, it defeated the European champion Fan Hui by five games to zero. AlphaGo then beat Lee Sedol, the best Go player of the last decade. Senior AI experts had believed it would take another decade before a machine could solve the game which is incredibly difficult. Go is said to have more possible board positions than there are atoms in the universe. As a result, the best players are said to win using their intuition rather than sheer calculation. The unsentimental machine made moves that left the human beings – the researchers and players – bewildered, but also led them to think that the path to “superintelligence” may not be so far away after all.

I was reminded again of this fascinating topic this week – and the possible effect on the global diamond industry – by the announcement by Israeli technology company Sarine Technologies that it will inaugurate its new, fully automated diamond grading lab during the January 28-30 International Diamond Week in Israel (IDWI).                     

The launch of the only such facility based on artificial intelligence (AI) follows an initial pilot of the lab facility that opened in February 2018.

The Sarine lab offers automated diamond grading reports, based on machine learning and monitored by expert gemologists, which supplies objective, consistent grading results, the firm said. The company said its lab also offers science-based Light Performance grading, measuring brilliance, sparkle, fire and light symmetry which objectively assesses the beauty of the diamond and adds value beyond the 4Cs.

The narrative of the diamond industry for hundreds of years has been one of experienced craftspeople sitting and examining diamonds up close. Only the human eye can see how a diamond can be cut and polished and its value assessed.

But the advent of AI is likely to change the reality of the diamond industry just as it is impacting other businesses. If an autonomous car can be developed to pick you up, deliver you to your destination and then continue to the next customer, then a machine that can inspect a diamond based on certain parameters does not seem like too much of a stretch.

Sarine says the labs will be part of a network of advanced, automated gemological labs. Based on what Sarine describes as its breakthrough in artificial intelligence-based technologies, the lab will include automated, accurate, consistent, and objective grading of a polished diamond's clarity and color.

"I believe that in another 5-10 years automated color/clarity reports will be the standard," said David Block, CEO of the Sarine Group. "Technology can provide grading services that are consistent and repeatable. Currently, the same diamond can receive a report with a difference of 2-3 grades from different labs. That clearly can't happen with our technology which we are continuously checking and improving."

Does it mean that some jobs are going to be lost, never to return? Probably. Then again, many jobs have been lost over the past decades due to globalization and not as a result of AI or technology. People have had to learn to adapt. Does AI also mean that people will be thrown onto the scrapheap? Again, new jobs will be created, thus providing different job opportunities. My personal feeling is that many formerly reasonably well-paying jobs that provided millions of middle class people with a solid footing in life will to come to an end, just as many already have. The market decides everything, good and bad, and the diamond trade, just like all others will have to adapt to new realities.