Artificial Intelligence: The Future Of AI
What is Artificial Intelligence?
While the future of AI might conjure up images of 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Terminator, the A.I. being developed in the labs of tech giants like Microsoft, Google, and Facebook looks much different, and serves a much different purpose.
The problem with defining artificial intelligence is defining natural intelligence. What makes someone intelligent?
You probably have a general answer to that question in your head. However, if you tried to put it into words, it’d be hard to encompass the entire idea of intelligence. We think of people who can do crazy math calculations in their head, but computers have been able to outperform people in how fast they can do math for decades. Recently, computers have began to learn to interpret speech with increasing accuracy as well.
AI is almost always defined in comparison to human intelligence in just that way. At its most basic, AI is the ability for a machine to learn from experiences and adjust to new inputs in a way that allows that machine to complete complex tasks like playing chess or driving without having to be taught or told every single step.
The History of Artificial Intelligence
Alan Turing was the English mathematician most famous for breaking the German’s Enigma code during World War II, and is considered by some to be the father of modern computers. He gave a lecture on “intelligent machines” in 1947, shortly after the war. He gave birth to the famous Turing Test of artificial computers.
The term “artificial intelligence” was first used in the summer of 1956 when a workshop in AI research at Dartmouth College birthed the field of AI research. Advancements were stop and go for the next few decades, and expectations and achievements for the future of AI haven’t always synced up.
Some of these advancements were even funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) out of the U.S. Department of Defense. This agency is also famous for its alleged exploration of UFOs and mind control technology, but artificial intelligence turned out to have a lot of potential. Advancement in the field kept coming, slowly but surely.
Is Artificial Intelligence Dangerous?
In Hollywood, A.I. is usually a dangerous and violent supercomputer. That makes for good movies. But is that fear justified?
It depends who you ask. A number of famous names in science and technology have weighed in on the dangers and potentials of artificial intelligence. The like of Nobel prize-winning physicist Stephen Hawking and Tesla/SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk view artificial intelligence as dangerous. Hawking said artificial intelligence could “spell the end of the human race” and Musk wrote that “[t]he risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five-year time frame. 10 years at most.”
These fears are always there, propagated by pop culture. Right now, there’s not much to substantiate them. Further, there’s many researchers who see the future of AI as allowing us to forge better solutions to complicated problems.
IBM in Pop Culture
In addition to movies like The Terminator, AI has begun to seep in other areas of pop culture as well. IBM supercomputer Watson was famous for its run on Jeopardy in 2011, beating two of the best Jeopardy contestants of all time by a margin of tens of thousands of dollars. About a decade prior, in May of 1997, Deep Blue, also an IBM supercomputer, beat Garry Kasparov, the world chess champion.
And AI appears in science fiction of all types. The wildly popular Netflix series Black Mirror tackled this question in its episode “Be Right Back.”. A version of the Turing test, called the Voight-Kampff Test, appears in Do Androids of Dream of Electric Sleep by Philip K. Dick in 1968.
This novel served as the inspiration for the hit film Blade Runner in 1982 and its sequel Blade Runner 2049, which came out just last year.
While most of pop culture imagines that the future of AI will be a human-like android (check out the critically acclaimed indie thriller Ex Machina, which centers itself around applying the Turing Test), we’re probably more likely to see tech like game-playing computers and self-driving cars as examples of technology that artificial intelligence makes possible in the near future. Still, pop culture has long helped us ease out what is artificial intelligence.
Artificial Intelligence Companies
The field of artificial intelligence companies is dominated by behemoths like Google and Facebook. While there are specialty shops that act solely as artificial intelligence companies that focus on tech development in that field, they usually get acquired by the larger fish before long.
Deepmind is one of the word leaders in AI research. Founded as an independent company based out of London in 2010, they were acquired by Google in 2014. They publish research frequently and are the team behind the incredible AI product AlphaGo (discussed below).
Facebook also has an advanced AI research wing, which notably made the news in July of 2017 when two of its AI programs began communicating with each other in a bizarre shorthand version of English that only they could understand, ultimately prompting Facebook to abandon the experiment.
Apple, IBM, and Microsoft are also working to get more involved in the AI game, particularly deep learning. However, none of them has quite reached the level of Google’s two shops or Facebook.
Another company to watch (although they’re actually a small non-profit research group) is OpenAI. Despite being small, they have some of the biggest names in AI. They are definitely on the same level as other larger artificial intelligence companies. They have also produced incredible research tools like Gym and Universe, which I’ll talk about further in a later article.
“Deep learning” is one of the more recent and more powerful fields in AI. Artificial intelligence companies are pouring tons of research into developing deep learning as they see it as the future of AI. Essentially, deep learning is the process of training computers to perform human-like tasks like recognizing speech or identifying images.
Deep learning is essentially the use of advanced statistics along with huge troves of data and faster computers. It is what allows AI to be used for logistics, data mining, medical diagnosis, and more.
Many of us are already becoming very familiar with machines employing deep learning: Siri, Alexa, and Cortana. The speech recognition and task orientation of these programs relies heavily on the deep learning field of artificial intelligence.
While a far cry from the Arnold Schwarzenegger of our imagination, increasingly household devices like the Amazon Echo are at the forefront of AI technology and the future of AI.
The Future of AI
In 2016 and 2017, AlphaGo, a product of Deepmind mentioned above, successfully won matches against Go champions. Go is a significantly more complex game than chess, and these victories represented both milestones of development and markers of how quickly and powerfully AI is advancing thanks to the work of artificial intelligence companies. The future of AI will hold a lot more such milestones.
One of the major areas that will expand rapidly in the coming years is automated transportation. Google has been experimenting with self-driving cars since 2012. In the not too distant future, this could disrupt the entire transportation industry. Imagine an Uber-like app but when the car pulls up, there’s no one in the driver’s seat!
All in all, these are the kind of advancements we can expect from the future of AI. As much as our imaginations might run wild with ideas of high-tech androids and all of the complications that would go along with them, artificial intelligence is more likely to drive our cars and order our groceries off of Amazon then sit down for dinner with us. At least…for now.
Thanks for reading!
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