You may be wondering: What exactly is artificial intelligence? Well, it is when machines, like robots or intelligent personal assistants, do things that are commonly known to require human intelligence to do. For example, recognizing faces in photos, understanding languages, and song recommendations are all everyday instances where AI is being used. In other words, it is a machine that can learn through trial and error instead of one that is programmed to do the same thing over and over. Whether you know it or not, AI can be found in so many places.
Over the years, humans have found many uses for AI. Machine learning, the leading approach to AI, has especially benefited the medical system. Programs are trained to distinguish patterns and respond to them. From spotting patterns in medical images to identifying faces, the possibilities are endless. DeepMind, Google’s artificial intelligence company, worked with the UK National Health Service to create software that is being taught to diagnose eye disease and cancer. This is a revolutionary idea that can easily catch early stages of cancer and reduce the risks of it becoming deadly.
Moreover, AI aids in the management of elaborate systems. One such way is in global shipping networks. For instance, Sydney’s Port Botany container terminal uses a system that handles thousands of shipping containers every day. In addition, the human-free zone includes automated carriers that carry assorted items in an organized fashion.
However, with all the helpful aspects of AI, there are some concerns as well. First and foremost, many tech entrepreneurs are voicing their concerns. For instance, Bill Gates and Elon Musk, not to mention the extremely knowledgeable Stephen Hawking, are cautioning the use of artificial intelligence and urging for precautions to be made.
Now, what exactly is there to be concerned about? Well, these systems, getting smarter every day, are becoming more and more involved in our day to day lives. With this involvement, there is cause to question whether or not these important decisions are being made with their due diligence. AI is being incorporated into our society, but do we have the safety precautions necessary to protect ourselves? All of the “big” inventions of today have safety measures in place. For instance, with cars, there are tons of laws in place to protect the public from harm, but with AI, people are ignorant. The general public has no knowledge of just how dangerous AI can be. These concerns are sometimes overblown such as when Andrew Ng at Stanford University and chief scientist at Chinese internet giant Baidu said, “fearing a rise of killer robots is like worrying about overpopulation on Mars.” As most experts stress the benefits and dismiss the concerns of AI, the public’s view of it is unrealistic and misinformed.
There are some evident problems as well. By putting so much trust in these systems, we sometimes do not see their pitfalls. If you recall, machine learning works by being taught how to detect patterns and acting upon that. Therefore, the machine software is only as good as the data from which it has learned. “Take a system trained to learn which patients with pneumonia had a higher risk of death, so that they might be admitted to hospital. It inadvertently classified patients with asthma as being at lower risk. This was because, in normal situations, people with pneumonia and a history of asthma go straight to intensive care and therefore get the kind of treatment that significantly reduces their risk of dying. The machine learning took this to mean that asthma + pneumonia = lower risk of death.” Because the data we give the machines is often flawed in some way, we should not expect a perfect outcome.
AIs can also come in the form of autonomous weapons. These weapons, designed for the sole purpose of killing, could be extremely harmful in the wrong hands. It could also inadvertently cause a full-on AI war with mass casualties. Likely made to be automatic and not easily operated by the enemy, they would be extremely difficult to “turn off.” Without complete control over these deadly machines, it is probable that we will face a dilemma of the management of them. This risk is present now and we are just beginning to explore the areas of artificial intelligence. We can only guess that the dangers will continue to increase as we create smarter and smarter AI.
Looking into the future of artificial intelligence, there may be some major changes in store. Already, many companies are using AI technology in machines doing repetitive tasks in the workforce, but as the tech evolves to include the understanding of emotions and proactive actions, more and more jobs will be taken over by machinery. The prospect of all these jobs being taken may be daunting, but new jobs will arise as well. Additionally, on a positive note, many of the most dangerous jobs will be taken over by machinery, as to avoid human injury while performing them. This will allow for these workers to shift to more creative and higher value tasks.
In the worlds of finance and customer service, AI will also cause some significant changes. For finance, AI will allow for real-time data processing. In other words, lots of data will be able to be analyzed at the same time. Companies are looking to use this ability to collect and analyze customer demographics to create a better, more personalized customer experience. Similarly, on the topic of customer service, in 2014, a Japanese company created a robot companion named “Pepper.” With the ability to understand human emotions along with having some of its own, they are currently being put to work in hospitals and homes as healthcare assistants.
Artificial intelligence has so many applications in life today, and we are just beginning to take advantage of its many possibilities. Even though there are many risks involved in this venture, we continue to push forward into the unknown to discover ways to improve life as we know it.
Written by: Helena L