The role of AI in the Future Technology
The funny thing about the future – when we talk about artificial intelligence – is that it’s already here.
We may not realize it, but our lives are so entangled with AI already that it is difficult to speculate about a world that will be any less influenced by it. AI is all around us – not just as Boston Dynamics’ self-balancing robots or Tesla’s self-driving cars – but as the Roombas and the Siris and the Alexas, and even as the ads and movie recommendations that we see in our daily lives.
And that is barely scratching the surface.
As with the case of any technology, AI is there to solve our problems and make life easier – although what “easier” means is quite vague. The world system is shaped around money and work; so while a new technology could mean the elimination of human labour required for a task, it takes the task away from the humans involved which brought the need for their job and thus provided them sustenance. There are several other facets of the complex relationship that humans and technology share.
The MIT Technology Review teases a sort of model to predict when a superintelligent AI, probably capable of disastrous effects besides its applications, is around the corner. When a need or a ‘canary’ leads to an AI program developing a fundamental new capability, it denotes the canary collapsing in the ‘coal mines of AI’, denoting breakthroughs on the horizon.
It goes on to cite a few canaries like self-driving cars and AI doctors while differentiating them from other ‘problems’ like medical imaging or AI-powered games. The distinction: versatility and critical application, rather than superhuman statistical assimilation or narrow-problem solving.
Alan Turing, known as the father of AI, posited in 1950 that human-level AI will be achieved when a person can’t distinguish conversing with a human from conversing with a computer. If we apply this test to even the most advanced conversational AI technology out there, we would quickly find out that they are still nowhere close to achieving human levels. It probably did in the film Her, but in reality, not yet.
However young as a technology, AI can still have some incredibly useful functions. And although its paradigms have been continually shifting each decade, AI has been on the rise since the turn of millennium. Modern AI methods are helping solve problems by making the need of human intervention (and error) at each level lesser, by breaking them into a number of smaller, isolated and well-defined problems, and solving them one at a time.
In addition to helping deepen our understanding of the universe and ourselves by aiding in scientific study – from medicine to astrophysics to medieval history – AI is in the music we listen to, the products we buy online, the movies and series we watch, our routes of transportation, and even the news and information that we have available. Bypassing grand questions like whether AI will take over the world, people are using AI to build practically useful solutions in real-world problems.
Criminal sentencing, credit scoring, video games, career guidance, business communication, sales and service, are all areas where the advent of AI is causing development by leaps and bounds. Why, some even argue that AI could mark the end of human work.
Face2Face is a system capable of identifying the facial expressions of a person and placing them almost seamlessly on another person’s face in a YouTube video.
Lyrebird is a tool for automatic assimilation and imitation of a person’s voice from a few minutes of sample recording. While the generated audio has a notable robotic tone, it still makes a pretty good impression.
Expertrons is a career guidance platform where users can converse with videobots of actual people by asking questions to their pre-recorded videos and still find intuitive answers in real-time.
Neuralink is a company that seeks to provide a brain-computer interface by using an ultra-thin mesh, or neural lace, that can be embedded in the skull for neuroprosthetics.
More than a hundred companies are involved in the production of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are basically drones that can be used for a variety of purposes.
Is AI a potential threat?
With such futuristic technology, fear and concern are natural reactions.
The argument that malevolent AI is a risk for humanity on the whole has been made in books like Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom and Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark, as well as a few recent articles. Elon Musk has openly stated that he believes that AI should be regulated by individual governments and on a global scale. He has also described it as “our biggest existential threat” and “potentially more dangerous than nukes.”
On the other hand, prominent AI experts like Andrew Ng say, “Worrying about AI turning evil is a little bit like worrying about overpopulation on Mars.”
Regardless of apocalyptic consequences, AI comes with concerns related to existing issues in society. Machine learning, which is used to make important decisions in several sectors, is susceptible to algorithmic bias: the embedding of a tendency to discriminate based on gender, religion, caste, ethnicity, or other factors while being used in areas like employment, bank loans, customized ads, and so on. Reason? The machine “learns” through human “training”, and the human’s bias ends up as the machine’s bias. It is a real phenomenon affecting people today.
AI is here to stay, and the future is indeed bright. New products, better services, increased productivity, creative innovation, bizarre inventions – AI can do it all. Nonetheless, a level of regulation keeping in mind societal implications is important. AI now and in the future should aim to avoid algorithmic bias, detect fraud, fabrications and falsehood, and respect privacy and other rights of people.