When people hear the term Artificial Intelligence they generally think about robots with humanlike appearances and bad intentions. Hollywood hasn’t really helped creating a positive image towards AI if you take series like Westworld, Terminator or the Matrix in consideration.. AI is much more than just robots acting like humans.
It’s considered that Google search was one of the first forms of AI. This is a system which teaches itself to get better results. The more it’s being used the better it gets. When you start typing in the Goolge search bar the AI kicks in and starts to guess your next words based on previous searches by other users.
A proof that AI is a booming business can be seen in the projects set up by major companies. Google search is depending on a system that is run by 1 million servers. For their new AI project Google is building a campus where they will install 100 million servers just to run their new project. Toyota in conjunction with Aisin Seiki and Denso just started a new 2.8 billion company to develop self-driving software for their fully self-driving vehicles.
Now what can we do with all this technology? Actually, more than we think, the possibilities are almost endless.
IBM’s Watson started out as question-answering computer system to compete and win a popular quiz show called Jeopardy. By “reading” over 2 million Wikipedia pages Watson acquired the knowledge to win the episode. Nowadays Watson is used for recommending treatments to lung cancer patients.
Further we have Baxter, an industrial robot designed to do simple industrial jobs like loading, sorting and handling materials. The main difference with conventional industrial robots is that Baxter doesn’t require a team of programmers to code the movements but that anyone can just show how the job must be done and it will learn itself to repeat that action. Reducing the training to just a few minutes.
Davinci is a surgeon-controlled robot during medical operations. While at the moment Davinci is still being operated by surgeons, it is learning to do operations on its own by monitoring the surgeon’s movements. These movements are captured and fed to Davinci through cameras. In the future the robot will be able to perform standard procedures on it's own.
Previous examples show us how AI is being used to help and improve our life, AI could as well be used purely for mischievous practices.
In July of 2015 a group of 116 experts led by Elon Musk and Mustafa Suleyman wrote an open letter to ban all autonomous weapons. The short film Slaughterbots shows how small drones can target persons through facial recognition and kill them by exploding on impact with the target’s head. This film is fictional but could become reality. If this kind of technology gets in the wrong hands it can have devastating consequences. A weapon that operates without human interference could start making decisions on its own. Imagine a drone acting as a judge, jury and executioner based on the data it get's its hands on or data it gets from people with bad intentions.
During the 2016 US president election and the 2017 general election in the United Kingdom AI was used to persuade voters to vote for a certain candidate. This was accomplished by sending voters tailor-made messages on social media to change their political persuasion.
Although AI can sometimes seem terrifying and dangerous I do believe we have a bright future ahead of us. If we just look at the progress that’s been made in the last 10 years. For example, voice search wasn’t available on mobile devices before 2008. Now we have Siri, Echo, Cortana, … who can not only recognize speech but are able to understand the meaning and take actions accordingly. Or in the case of IBM’s Watson which evolved from a question-answer system to a system that is able to diagnose diseases and recommend threatments in just a few years.
I’m curious of what we will come up with next to improve our lives.