Artificial Intelligence isn’t talked about that much, but it is fast becoming a part of our everyday lives. AI is the branch of computer science working to make machines behave more like people. This involves a wide range of processes including speech recognition and visual perception. The ability to learn from experience is also a fundamental component of AI technology. Advances in AI can make our lives a lot easier with self-driving automobiles, virtual reality training programs and delivery drones. However, there is also the potential for a lot of disruption and unintended outcomes. For example, if self-driving automobiles become pervasive, transportation will become cheaper and more convenient for most people, but what will become of the people working as truck drivers, bus drivers, taxi drivers and couriers? AI undoubtedly offers many ways to make our lives better. However, before we take this technology completely for granted, it would be prudent to consider the negative consequences we could soon face.
15. Algorithms: AI 101
An algorithm is a specific set of instructions used to solve a specific problem or task. For example, the instructions used to build a model airplane are an algorithm. This is fundamental to computer programming, but the expectation of AI is that advanced algorithms will allow machines to learn from experience and perhaps exhibit signs of intelligence. Tech companies are experimenting with a concept called “deep learning” that seeks to mimic human decision-making and revolutionize the development of AI.
14. All Mine
Companies like Crowdflower suck up huge amounts of data from users on the Internet and sell it to companies. This is data mining and the information is often used for research so companies can better understand their customers. Data mining uses AI to target and collect the specific information a client wants such as customer internet search habits so online advertising can be tailored to fit customer profiles.
13. Watson Meets Dr. McCoy
IBM’s Watson has made great advances in the field of medical diagnostics. It stores and analyzes vast amounts of medical data and is learning to translate this into how to correctly diagnose a patient’s symptoms. You should not be surprised to learn that many of IBM’s engineers are fans of the iconic Star Trek television and movie franchise. Some of them were inspired by Dr. McCoy’s handy medical tricorder that could accurately diagnose the most exotic conditions. Although we are not there yet, AI is making great strides in helping doctors give patients the best care possible.
12. Follow the Money
AI is big business. Since 2009 the sector has attracted $17 billion in funding. Investors are betting AI is going to make them a lot of money. Google, Facebook and Microsoft of course are big players, but plenty of small start-up companies see AI as their future too. The giant tech companies have noticed and started buying up some of the promising ones like Faceshift and Optimus Ride. As AI becomes more and more a part of our everyday lives, investment is likely to continue to grow and encourage even more innovation.
11. IT’s all Fun and Games
IBM’s Deep Blue made news in 1996 when it beat chess champion Garry Kasparov, but AI has evolved since then. Today there is Google’s Deepmind and this AI has learned to play Go, a traditional Chinese board game played for 2,500 years. In 2016 Deepmind convincingly defeated the world Go champion, Lee Fedol. This was a wake up call for some people who are concerned about the increased use of machine intelligence and it’s long-term implications for humanity. However, this win marks a sort of milestone in the development of AI because Go is considered to be even more complex and difficult than chess for machines to master.
10. The Reality of AI is Virtual
Virtual Reality is not a new technology. VR has helped train soldiers and airline pilots for years, and it is an emerging phenomenon in pornography. The combination of cutting edge AI and the latest VR technology is creating new possibilities for more constructive pursuits, such as training surgeons to perform the most delicate surgeries and giving students immersive educational experiences that replace classrooms with compelling virtual locations.
9. The Mechanics of Love
When someone develops a new technology it is often adapted in ways not foreseen by the creator. Stanford researcher John McCarthy coined the term “artificial intelligence.” He probably didn’t have “sexbots” in mind in 1955 when he wrote a proposal for a conference to explore what was an obscure part of computer science at the time. AI technology is being added to life-like dolls to create a robotic mate that will never complain about having a headache.
8. The Real Skynet
The U.S. military is very worried about the increasing frequency and scale of cyber and electronic warfare threats. This was why humans turned over control of their security to Skynet, the advanced computer network, in the Terminator movie franchise. People are still in control of defending the homeland for now. But thanks to advances in AI, humans might not be in the loop much longer. Infrastructure such as the power grid and countless computer systems are under constant threat. The speed and the complexity of this problem make it tempting to put computers in charge of protecting us. The danger is that we humans could hand over control of our safety and our fate to machines that do not understand we our their masters.
7. The Mighty Amazon
Amazon.com began as a struggling online bookseller and has grown into a retail and technology juggernaut. Its AI entity named Alexa can answer questions, play your favorite tunes and order that new pair of shoes you’ve been meaning to get. With your Amazon Prime membership your shoes might soon arrive by drone. But even with all these technological innovations Amazon has decided to go retro and is launching hi-tech brick and mortar stores. These stores will use the latest automation and data mining to transform the shopping experience.
6. Player Piano
In 1952 Kurt Vonnegut wrote Player Piano, a novel about a future where most people’s jobs are replaced by automation. People are reduced to wasting their time on pointless, make – work jobs. Google China founder Kai-Fu Fee declares: “AI is the singular thing that will be bigger than all tech revolutions added together, including electricity, the industrial revolution, internet, mobile internet because AI is pervasive…” He goes on to say that AI could eventually automate as much as 50 percent of the jobs currently performed by people.
5. They Robot
AI and robotics are quickly advancing to the point where they will soon be the humanoid wonders long promised by science fiction. But looking cool like Honda’s Asimo is not enough. Robots will increasingly be able to interact with humans using complex software that will allow them to mimic social behavior. Performing, tough, manual labor is an obvious role for machines, but AI technology will perhaps make it possible for humanoid robots to fill a wide variety of role such as waiters, doctors, police officers and most intriguing – real companions.
4. A Quantum Leap for AI
One of the limitations of current AI technology is that traditional computers take too long to run the sophisticated algorithms needed to fully exploit the technology. Researchers are optimistic that quantum computing, with speeds of magnitudes faster than what we are used to, is the missing piece. Traditional computing uses either a 1 or a 0 to represent information. Quantum computing operates on the principle that information in the quantum world can be a “1” and a “0” at the same time. This opens up new possibilities such as the ability to defeat even the most sophisticated encryption.
3. No Hands on the Wheel
We love our cars, their style and speed and the freedom they provide. But what if we were freed from them? This question may be answered sooner than we thought as companies like Apple and Tesla race to use AI to reinvent the automobile as a robot chauffeur. Instead of stressing out behind the wheel during rush hour traffic you could take a nap or binge watch the latest season of House of Cards. Collisions, including deadly ones, don’t appear to have slowed the push for automation. Businessinsider.com predicts there will be as many as 10 million driverless cars on the roads by 2020.
2. Turing the Future
Alan Turing was one of the founders of computing and AI. He used his skills to build a machine capable of cracking the most complicated German codes during World War Two. But he is also known for the so – called “Turing Test” that people commonly, but incorrectly believe is a test of a machine’s ability to think. Turing believed the idea of thinking machines was ridiculous but he did devise the imitation game to examine and evaluate what he called “mechanical” thinking in machines. In 2014, a computer passed the Turing Test for the first time.
1. Resistance is Futile
Many futurists believe our destiny is cybernetic like the dreaded Borg Collective in Star Trek. Some experts argue that advances in our understanding of biology and the growing power of AI will inevitably lead to human – computer interfacing in an attempt to improve the species. Evolution would be rendered obsolete at this point because we could short circuit the process altogether with state of the art technology. Characteristics like appearance, health, athletic ability and intelligence would be easily manipulated according to your preferences. Unfortunately, this kind of technology would raise a lot of ethical questions and even fears about new forms of prejudice. People could be treated differently based on whether they had or didn’t have the technological enhancements coveted by society. And consider this: would these enhancements ultimately make us more or less human?