Artificial Intelligence: AI Fact & Fiction

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the science of making smart machines, and it has come a long way since the term was coined in the 1950s. Nowadays, robots work alongside humans in hotels and factories, while driverless cars are being test driven on the roads.

Behind the scenes, AI engines in the form of smart algorithms "work" on stock exchanges, offer up suggestions for books and films on Amazon and Netflix and even write the odd article.

But AI does not have the greatest public image - often due to sci-fi films that display dystopian visions of robots taking over the world.

Hal is perhaps the most famous AI turned bad. Created by Arthur C Clarke for the book and film 2001: A Space Odyssey, Hal stands for Heuristically Programmed Algorithmic Computer.

A recent survey of business and technology professionals and found that 58% of them are researching AI, but only 12% are using AI systems.

This gap reflects growing interest in AI, but little actual use at this time. It is expected that enterprise interest-in, and use of, AI to increase as software vendors roll out AI platforms and build AI capabilities into applications. Enterprises that plan to invest in AI expect to improve customer experiences, improve products and services, and disrupt their industry with new business models.

Definition of AI

“Artificial” is the opposite of organic. Artificial simply means person-made versus occurring naturally in the universe. Computer scientists, engineers, and developers research, design, and create a combination of software, computers, and machine to manifest AI technology.

“Intelligence” is in the eye of the beholder. Philosophers will have job security for a very long time trying to define intelligence precisely. Intelligence is much tougher to define because we humans routinely assign intelligence to all matter of things including well-trained dachshunds, self-driving cars, and “intelligent” assistants such as Amazon Echo.

While Artificial Intelligence isn’t exactly new, it has become a very hot topic as of late. In fact, quite a few startups have recently raised millions in investment dollars to fund everything from voice-activated discovery to general purpose AI projects. These companies are excited about a technology that looks poised to finally start living up to its promise and potential.

The story of modern AI dates back to 1956, when revered computer scientist John McCarthy came up with the name “Artificial Intelligence”, which then became the study of using computer systems to perform tasks that require human intelligence. The gaming realm is probably where you’ll find its most common applications. Game developers use it to give non-playable characters limited awareness and other realistic characteristics in simulated environments. A perfect example is the poorly animated crowd cheering you on as you drive down the field in a game of Madden.

Ironically, the artificial intelligence you see in video games isn’t the same AI John McCarthy and others envisioned for this exciting concept.

Infinite Possibilities and Limitations

Since the early days of the genre, science fiction has catered to our fascination of mechanical masterminds by scripting passionate tales around friendly robots, subservient androids, and free-willed computer systems bent on world domination. From one flick to the next, these fictional machines portray both the emotion, and lack of emotion associated with human beings.

Movie critics are hailing Transcendence as one of the best Hollywood depictions of AI. The 2014 film tells the story of a Will Caster, a dedicated artificial intelligence researcher whose life’s mission is to develop a sentient system that integrates all knowledge known to man in a single machine. Not to be too much of a spoiler, but Caster eventually becomes the focal point of his own experiment as an artificial being with the consciousness of mankind and limitless wisdom is unleashed on the world.

Though often compelling from an entertainment standpoint, Hollywood feeds the myths and misconceptions that surround artificial intelligence. Sounds silly, but there are people who truly buy into the painted picture of self-aware networks like the Terminator franchise’s Skynet organizing a robotic assault on the human race. Never say never, but you may agree that anything of the sort is highly unlikely when realizing what AI isn’t.

Human experienced: In order to learn a new language with fluid efficiency, you have to spend time conversing with others who are familiar with the slang, culture, social context of the terminology, and other things that can’t all be learned from a piece of dictation software. A machine faces even greater challenges in this scenario due to its lack of cultural experiences, hardships, and every-day human interactions.

An independent operator: The thought of robots rebelling against mankind makes for an intriguing plot, but due to the reliance on human assistance, it may never be possible. Even the most skilled of smart machines still depend on man to write their automation capabilities, perform repairs, and handle general maintenance. And let’s not forget those crucial OS updates. Without us, the most advanced AI machines would be non-functional sooner or later.

Social savvy: Everyday, computers talk to one another to connect our systems to the Internet and power the network operations we thrive on. Like all aspects of technology, machine-to-machine interactions can and will evolve, but there is a limit to their communication capabilities. The inability to proactively socialize means a super intelligent computer can’t coordinate sadistic schemes from scratch with like systems, or even sway disloyal people into betraying their own kind – though that might not take much convincing.

The Future of AI in the Real World

SmartCloud is one of the startups mentioned earlier that is banking on this technology to drive its own business model. The Bedford, Massachusetts firm uses AI software to help companies improve their real-time decision-making capabilities via predictive analytics. Companies you may be more familiar with, namely search giant Google, is leveraging it to make the world smarter, more productive, and efficient through the aid of machines with brain-like processors.

Some people are excited about AI’s potential to make life even easier. Others fear the threat of machines putting more humans out of work, out-thinking us in the battle of wits, and simply falling into the wrong hands.

The very premise of AI technology is its ability to continually learn from the data it collects. The more data there is to collect and analyze through carefully crafted algorithms, the better the machine becomes at making predictions. Not sure what movie to watch tonight? Don’t worry; Netflix has some suggestions for you based on your previous viewing experiences. Don’t feel like driving? Google’s working on a solution for that, too, racking up the miles on its driverless car prototype. Is that a good thing or bad?

BBC:         Storagecraft:       Wired:       Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning Market To Grow Fivefold By 2020:



 

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