We live in a world that is beyond our control, and life is in a constant flux of change. So we have a decision to make: keep trying to control a storm that is not going to go away or start learning how to live within the rain. Although the Glenn Pemberton quote isn’t referring to the modern day struggle with new technologies, it defines the issues surrounding AI.
Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute asked several hundred machine-learning experts to predict AI capabilities, over the coming decades.
Notable dates included AI writing essays that could pass for being written by a human by 2026, truck drivers being made redundant by 2027, AI surpassing human capabilities in retail by 2031, writing a best-seller by 2049, and doing a surgeon’s work by 2053. They estimated there was a relatively high chance that AI beats humans at all tasks within 45 years and automates all human jobs within 120 years.
In this series of articles we’ll show how artificial intelligence impacts our lives in both positive and negative ways.
What is artificial intelligence?
AI systems will typically demonstrate at least some of the following behaviors associated with human intelligence: planning, learning, reasoning, problem solving, knowledge representation, perception, motion, and manipulation and, to a lesser extent, social intelligence and creativity.
AI is often used today to recommend what you should buy next online, to understand what you say to virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, to recognise who and what is in a photo, to spot spam, or detect credit card fraud and much more.
Let’s take a look at some of the areas already impacted by artificial intelligence.
Robots and driverless cars
The desire for robots to be able to act autonomously and understand and navigate the world around them means there is a natural overlap between robotics and AI. While AI is only one of the technologies used in robotics, use of AI is helping robots move into new areas such as self-driving cars, delivery robots, as well as helping robots to learn new skills. The Chinese company Baidu has invested in developing self-driving cars, powered by its deep learning algorithm, Baidu AutoBrain, and, following several years of tests, plans to roll out fully autonomous vehicles in 2018 and mass-produce them by 2021. General Motors recently said it would build a driverless car without a steering wheel or pedals by 2019, while Ford committed to doing so by 2021, and Waymo, the self-driving group inside Google parent Alphabet, will soon offer a driverless taxi service in Phoenix.
Fake news and Deepfakes
We already have neural networks that can create photo-realistic images or replicate someone’s voice in a pitch-perfect fashion. With that comes the potential for hugely disruptive social change, such as no longer being able to trust video or audio footage as genuine. Concerns are also starting to be raised about how such technologies are being used to misappropriate people’s image, with tools already created to convincingly splice famous actresses into adult films, fake political statements and more.
While this aspect of artificial intelligence seems scary, it also have some productive aspects to it. As scary as it is to be able to switch out other peoples faces and voices, it also makes it easier and less expensive to make movies and TV shows. And just like the face swapping apps of yesterday, this technology will also be used for fun and entertainment.
Speech and language recognition
One of the most visible manifestations of this AI war has been the rise of virtual assistants, such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, the Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana. This technology is already being used in other products, such as TV’s, Smartwathces and other wearables. In the next couple of years everybody will be using universal translators with every word recorded and fed into the giant A.I network.
With researchers pursuing a goal of 99 percent accuracy, expect speaking to computers to become the norm alongside more traditional forms of human-machine interaction.
Internally, each of the tech giants use AI to help drive a myriad of public services such as serving search results, offering recommendations, recognizing people and things in photos, on-demand translation, spotting spam. The list is extensive.
These systems feature absurd processing power and instant analytical capabilities. They eat big data and crap hyper-targeted marketing. They take no breaks or vacation days, and spend no time screwing around on Facebook (except to ingest behavioral insights to make themselves smarter).
People’s faces are being used like cookies to help in offering targeted services that meet the preferences of a customer. Other companies are using facial recognition to detect the moods of their customers and, in turn, offer them suitable product recommendations.
With the focus on fake news and online hate speech, more and more tech giants are implementing filters and other vetting processes with the help of A.I systems. Facebook training agents to negotiate and even lie is a huge problem that just shows the big tech companies are guilty of doing the things they promise to protect people from.
Choosing what song to release or what movie to produce is already being decided mostly by AI systems. AI systems have already produced music, art and TV shows. While these AI made productions still can’t compete with human creativity and struggles with things such as emotions and humor, they are very close to matching us or even becoming better.
Much of the entertainment related AI business will get popularized through Augmented Reality devices such as future smartphones and smartglasses.
There can be no doubt, artificial intelligence (AI) helps defend government and business systems from cyberattacks, but conversely, AI systems can be used to augment attacks against governments and corporations, even Small businesses and private persons.
While police forces in western countries have generally only trialed using facial-recognition systems at large events, in China the authorities are mounting a nationwide program to connect CCTV across the country to facial recognition and to use AI systems to track suspects and suspicious behavior, and are also trialing the use of facial-recognition glasses by police.
In the near future, law enforcement will get new tools to fight crime and solve so-called cold cases where DNA is the only evidence. A Belgian team of scientists are working on this right know and if their work is successful, cops around the world will be able to get much more information from a typical DNA sample. Our DNA decides how we look and AI systems can soon read a DNA sample and extract physical traits, deceases and much more.
AI could eventually have a dramatic impact on healthcare, helping radiologists to pick out tumors in x-rays, aiding researchers in spotting diseases and identifying molecules that could lead to more effective drugs.
AI will be a powerful tool in the world of genetic manipulation and give us a better understanding of our genes and potentially gene therapy techniques such as CRISPR.
AI is also a major factor in business and almost every business is using it in some form or another. Security in banking is one area where AI will be used, but also in everything from stocks to job interviews.
While AI won’t replace all jobs, what seems to be certain is that AI will change the nature of work, with the only question being how rapidly and how profoundly automation will alter the workplace.
There is barely a field of human endeavour that AI doesn’t have the potential to impact. As AI expert Andrew Ng puts it: “many people are doing routine, repetitive jobs. Unfortunately, technology is especially good at automating routine, repetitive work”, saying he sees a “significant risk of technological unemployment over the next few decades”.
Some experts think AI will improve the workplace and amount of human jobs.