When we think about Artificial Intelligence (AI), we often associate the concept with postmodern Hollywood films like Bladerunner, Minority Report and The Matrix. While these movies depict incredibly advanced and sophisticated AI capabilities – perhaps beyond what many of us will see in our lifetime – AI is no longer an emerging technology. It is mainstream.
So what exactly is artificial intelligence?
In simple terms, AI is the ability of a computer to act like a human, demonstrating perception, learning, understanding, and reasoning.
AI capabilities include understanding human speech, competing at a high level in strategic game systems (such as chess), driverless vehicles, intelligent routing in content delivery networks, military simulations, and interpreting complex data, among others.It’s hard to think of a single technology that will have more impact on our lives in the next 50 years than AI.Click To Tweet
Many tools are used in AI, including versions of search and mathematical optimisation, logic, methods based on probability and economics. What’s worth noting is that AI is reliant on science and/or mathematical equations. The fact that it is driven by logic means that it lacks characteristics like creativity and reasoning. Essentially, things (at least for now) will be black or white – with no grey area. This makes the technology ideal for automating repetitive tasks, but far less so for last-minute critical decisions that rely on human instinct and judgement.
Machine learning – at the core of AI – is where algorithms learn from data, complete tasks, and make predictions. Every time the algorithm identifies something – correctly or incorrectly – it builds upon its knowledge set, and effectively gets smarter.
Examples of current AI applications
You’re most likely already using some form of artificial intelligence in your daily activities.
Here are a few…
Netflix provides highly accurate predictive technology based users’ reactions to films. It analyses billions of records to suggest films that you might like based on your previous reactions and choices.
Likewise, Amazon is quite smart when it comes to predicting what we’re interested in. It uses an intelligent algorithm that considers our past purchases, as well as what we’ve searched for and browsed to suggest items we may want to buy.
Using anonymous location data from smartphones, Google Maps can analyse the speed of movement of traffic at any given time.
You may have noticed that Facebook and other apps now recognise many of your friends’ faces in posted photos and prompt you to tag them with their names.
Machine learning isn’t new for Google. Every time you perform a search, it watches how you respond to the results. If you click the top result and stay on that web page, it can assume you got the information you were looking for and the search was a success.
What will AI be capable of in the future?
AI promises to help accelerate marketing with big data providing detailed insights, personalised content recommendations, and lead scoring. Rules-based interactions with customers, usually built by marketers, can be automated with AI. This enables businesses to better understand and serve their customers.
Intelligent algorithms can also help personalise people’s website experience by analysing hundreds of data points – including location, demographics, device etc – and serve up the most relevant content and offers.
While it’s unlikely doctors and nurses will ever be replaced, AI is already transforming the healthcare industry. Machine learning is rapidly improving diagnostics, treatments, and follow-ups. As this develops, new treatments and diagnoses could save more lives and cure more diseases.
An autonomous vehicle – or driverless car – can sense its environment and navigating without human input. Driverless cars use a variety of techniques to detect their surroundings, such as radar, laser light, GPS, and computer vision. Advanced control systems interpret sensory information to identify appropriate navigation paths, as well as obstacles and relevant signage.
Machine learning should be part of the furniture for any cybersecurity technology. With vast amounts of data being generated and transferred over networks, one of the key problems for security teams is alert fatigue. Large companies handle on average around 10,000 security alerts per day. AI will – over time – become better at automatically classifying events. This will minimise false positives and ensure nothing of interest flies under the radar.
The downsides of AI
Like any transformative technology, however, artificial intelligence carries some risk and presents complex policy challenges along several dimensions, from jobs and the economy to safety and regulatory questions.
We’re likely to see a number of jobs lost as a result of AI and this won’t just be limited to one industry or profession. Knowledge workers including medical professionals, accountants and lawyers will also be affected.
The companies at the forefront of AI
Global tech giants like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon are leading the charge in the AI space. In fact, these companies are working together to advance public understanding and awareness of AI, its potential benefits, and costs through Partnership on AI.
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Google’s A.I. Experiments showcases simple experiments that let anyone play with AI and machine learning technology in hands-on ways, through pictures, drawings, language, music, and more.
It’s hard to think of a single technology that will have more impact on our lives in the next 50 years than AI. We’re already unlocking amazing new possibilities and opportunities, and artificial intelligence is just in its infancy – it’s only going to get smarter.
Content marketer, blogger, author and tech geek.