The AI World
By Navneet Sirha
“You could sort of think of humanity as a biological boot loader for digital super intelligence” - Elon Musk
We are living in a world surrounded by artificial intelligence whether we know it or not and perhaps more importantly whether we like it or not. Our day-to-day activities are assisted by computers that seemingly take the work out of our work. You can ask Alexa about the weather forecast for the day before you jump into your self-driving car and when you get to work you look over a predictive model that you ran through a software the day before. It turns out that the world of tomorrow may be here already, minus some imagination from The Jetsons - for now.
To get a better understanding of this topic, it is best to define what artificial intelligence really is, as misunderstanding can lead to incorrect assumptions. The best explanation I could find is, “Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings.”
The AI tech that we interact with today is known as Narrow Intelligence (ANI) - also referred to as Weak AI - programmed to perform one narrow task. Speech recognition devices, self-driving cars and data analysing software are all examples of ANI. Although they may seem very intelligent and good at what they do, they are performing a narrow set of predefined tasks and won’t do anything outside of what they are programmed to do. A data crunching software will handle numbers you give it well, heck, better than I could, but it won’t do anything other than that. However, the better our AI tech gets, and with enough processing power, a business could potentially replace an entire workforce with machines programmed specially for that job. This now poses a number of ethical and political questions: what do we do with a vast workforce now unemployed with a handful of out of date skills? Should the organisation pay those now out of work? Do we implement a robot tax? If this trend of using AI to do the majority of jobs continues, do we need a universal basic income? Will we even need to work anymore? These are all questions which we will face with every step in AI technology advancement.
Spare a moment to contemplate how intelligent a machine would need to be in order for your own job to be replaced. My own role as a web developer would need to be adjusted to take into account new software that will perform tasks quicker than I could. However, it isn’t all doom and gloom; adjustments in my role would also be made as new tech opportunities open up that will need a human mind to create solutions to new problems. These new opportunities don’t just stop with web development, they branch out to UX design, graphic design, marketing and beyond. Smart algorithms will get smarter, meaning our work gets done quicker freeing up our time to concentrate on more creative pursuits.
What we see from TV and film – human-like robots, more commonly known as Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), intelligence that is on par with human cognitive function, that can learn and understand as well as any human. This is where things get real interesting - they were just normal interesting before this, when the systems we create are as smart if not smarter than humans, can think independently and adapt. The major benefit we humans have is our cognitive ability, we can think on the spot and think outside of the box. Humans can comprehend complexities that arise that cannot be programmed into a machine and adjust accordingly, our brain is what currently separates us from machines - for now.
We’ve covered intelligence on par with humans, but if our tech continues to advance then perhaps there will come a time when a machine will create a superior machine, an artificial super intelligence (ASI). An intelligence that will surpass human intellect and ability in all aspects. Now I can hear you gasping and asking, “but Nav what will this mean?”, and the answer is I don’t know, and it’s impossible for anyone to know until the day it actually happens. All we know is that there will be profound changes in the way we live when we are not the smartest beings on the planet.
The rapid rate of advancement in our technology will transform the way we see the world and interact with the things in it. There are different schools of thought on the directions AI development is going and what the outcome will be. It’s difficult to predict how the future will look and when these envisioned changes will take place but it’s fair to say that the future looks to be an interesting prospect.