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Innovation

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Whether discussing self-driving cars, machine learning, military simulations, or even games, artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the hottest topics at the moment. The potential of this technology is enormous. It’s no wonder that so many companies are diving headfirst into the subject. 

What exactly is this artificial intelligence, though, and how can we expect it to influence the world we’re living in? 

AI is basically intelligence demonstrated by machines. Through algorithms based on learning from the behavior and patterns of humans, the idea is to enable machines to operate independently and intelligently. The field has its roots in 1956 where it got introduced to academia for the first time. Back then computers were in their infancies and the idea of what AI could allow was accordingly basic. The scientists back then were thinking about computers solving problems in algebra. Today the research has moved onto learning computers to speak rationally with humans, do complex problem solving, create accurate predictions, and automate a whole score of the day to day operations. 

So needless to say that the field of AI has experienced a massive evolution since the 1950s. Today many machines have been developed that are able to learn experientially from their environment and thus improve their operations independently of human interference. Computers exist that are able to write their own algorithms and yes, humans don’t always know, understand or are able to control what the computers are learning. The thought is exciting, yet also scary. 

Generally speaking, artificial intelligence is based on the following 8 aspects

  1. Reasoning: Computers should operate reasonably and make logical deductions. 
  2. Planning: Computers should set their own goals and find ways to achieve them. This requires that they are able to visualize the future. 
  3. Learning: Computers should learn from the environment they are placed in and from their experiences. 
  4. Language processing: Computers should understand human language in all its illogical and creative ways. We might not be aware of it, but a lot of the time we communicate using incomplete or ungrammatical sentences. This poses a great challenge for computers. 
  5. Perception: Computers should sense the world visually, tactilely, auditorily, etc. just like we do. 
  6. Motion: When related to robotics, computers should move through and manipulate the world physically. 
  7. Social intelligence: Computers should socially understand and interact with humans. 
  8. General intelligence: Computers should possess a diversity of knowledge and use it interdisciplinarily. 

Imagine what could all be possible if computers became able to do all of these things. A lot of operations and activities could be automated, made more efficient and we could be given more time and freedom to pursue our interests and passions. Siri and Alexa are just the beginning. Soon we might be able to communicate with our fridge and our car, so we never have to go grocery shopping or drive through traffic jams again. 

There are many cool examples of what AI is already being used for. One initiative uses AI to collect data about bees to save them from distinction. Another initiative analysis data to help optimize harvest to reduce global world hunger. Also on the topic of spotting fake news AI is being used. 

How about AI’s impact on our lives and jobs?

It is very exciting, yet at the same time, the expected impact of AI is still mostly unclear. Often the discussion moves to the question of an increase in unemployment, but many agree that the opposite is actually going to be true. Statistics show that more jobs are going to appear as a result of AI technology. The job sector related to dangerous, dull and dirty tasks would be given to computers, while creative, meaningful and more complex tasks would fall into human hands, strongly increasing our life quality.

The effect on unemployment is likely to be similar to the industrial revolution. The job market experienced a complete makeover with many old jobs making way for new kinds. It was a big disruption back then, but I’m sure most of you are happy that you no longer have to produce your own food and clothes or spend your whole life pursuing only one profession. Those are the direct consequences of the technological advancement of the industrial revolution. 

Many dystopias also treat the question of whether we at one point will lose complete control over the machines, thus creating a threat to humankind. Of course, that is something to consider, but we are not there yet. We still have enough time to figure out how best to proceed to minimize the potential risks of using AI in earnest. Like with every technological advancement, there are pros and cons and a need to be mindful of what we’re doing. We can’t only think big, we must also dare to learn and take action consciously and with the bigger global picture in mind. 

Can we build AI without losing control over it? Find out in the following TED talk by neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris.

What do you think about the future of AI? Let us know in the comments below!

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