Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been the focus of speculation and excitement since its inception decades ago. The reality of AI is finally beginning to catch up with science fiction. This technology is beginning to permeate our entire lives in ways that we may not even be aware of.
AI is any system or machine that can improve upon itself by using the information it collects in a way that reflects how human intelligence works. In essence, AI is the capability of a more advanced learning process for computers and machines. It’s the process of creating intelligent machines capable of improving and learning as they collect data, parse it, and make logical conclusions toward their own evolution.
Some examples of AI include customer service chatbots and social media algorithms. The pinnacle of human intelligence, things like speech recognition, advanced decision-making, and visually identifying objects and faces, has now become something that AI is capable of.
While movies and books often portray AI as being a threat to the human species, many are excited about the reality of AI making our lives easier, better, and more efficient. For now, companies are utilizing AI as a premier solution to many problems.
To truly understand AI, it’s important to dissect the “intelligence” part of the catch-all phrase. Intelligence, in the context of Artificial Intelligence, refers to the computational abilities of goal-achieving for a system. In short, if a system is capable of fast and abundant computations in order to achieve its preconceived goal, we could call it “intelligent.”
For obvious reasons, human intelligence has always marked the benchmark for how we wish our machines could operate. When many envision what AI could become, what they are really aiming for is the capability standard of the human brain. Historically, human intelligence has always had a greater capacity for storing memories, multitasking, communicating socially, decision-making, and being self-aware. There are still many aspects of decision-making and thought processes that artificial intelligence can’t pull off. The way the human brain operates is still somewhat of a mystery to us so it’s only natural that it’d be difficult to program that into a machine.
While not every researcher or developer has ambitions that rival science fiction movies, AI development goals of enabling computers to do anything a human mind can do are standard. Alan Turning, an English mathematician, is considered by many to be the earliest champion of AI’s potential. His lecture in 1947 focused on AI and it was the start of a cultural shift toward the possibilities of how computers might evolve. The Turing test was essentially a test proclaiming that if a computer could match human intelligence and convince an outside observer of a human-like intelligence, then it was to be considered “intelligent.”
More than 70 years later, many believe we’ve exceeded Turing’s benchmark for computer intelligence. The term “artificial intelligence” is often mentioned together with machine learning. AI and machine learning are not separate things, rather machine learning is a tool used within AI development. AI works by taking in an abundance of data and running it through algorithms and learning from the patterns along the way.
Machine learning, on the other hand, seeks out conclusions from data through the use of neural networks. This pattern-seeking behavior allows a computer to learn. Previously, this hadn’t been a hallmark of computers as they’d always completed functions that they’d been programmed to do and nothing more. Accompanying machine learning in conversations about AI is the concept of deep learning. Deep learning is essentially machine learning within layers and layers of huge datasets.
Beyond just a sense of accomplishment for how far computer intelligence has come, AI offers several tangible benefits. AI offers greater automation for certain tasks. Because a computer cannot exhaust itself or run out of mental energy, it can perform repetitive tasks that a human would need to do manually. AI can also work a 24-hour day every day of the week, whereas a human cannot. It can provide a higher-quality analysis. With a heavy focus on a single task or function, AI can analyze datasets or difficult problems at higher speeds than a human brain can. It can improve the effectiveness of our processes and functions. It can cut down on errors caused by human judgment.
All of these add up to the enhancement of products and services delivered to end users. Additionally, these AI capabilities mean a reduced overhead cost for many companies. Without the need for staff members or teams comprising multiple people, AI can run at full capacity doing what it needs to do while delivering higher ROI for its performance.
With these core benefits of AI, we may see boring (or dangerous) jobs as a thing of the past, at least for humans. We may see a hugely improved output from departments and companies with a radical growth in speed and efficiency.
Many have warned us about the potential hazards of AI. Elon Musk famously stated: “Mark my words, AI is far more dangerous than nukes” and then went on to ask “why do we have no regulatory oversight?” There’s no shortage of movie references alluding to the possibility of AI gone awry, as well as influential people questioning where we’re headed. So, what’s in place to make sure that doesn’t happen?
Some oversight must be implemented to ensure our future with AI is beneficial for all. What will be the most effective type of oversight or regulation? To understand the answer to that question, we need to realistically look at the threats AI poses. Before we worry about AI taking over, there are a few much more pressing ways that AI may disrupt our way of life.
Job automation is no longer a distant potential danger of AI technology. Jobs are already being automated and due to this, people are being put out of jobs. What’s worse is that we haven’t planned for this as a society. Millions of people work in jobs that are under threat of being replaced by automation via AI within the next decade. With this automation and the subsequent layoffs, we could see increasing unemployment rates. The fact is, certain industries and jobs would be affected much more quickly by early automation by AI than others.
Another potential danger of AI coming in the near future would be the malicious use of this powerful technology. With great power comes great responsibility and as soon as AI's sheer potential becomes accessible to all, we're sure to see it make its way into the hands of malevolent criminals, hackers, terrorists, and states. We may also see privacy and misinformation issues with burgeoning AI capabilities. This prospect has spurred a sort of AI arms race where many countries and companies are speeding innovation of AI in both benevolent and malevolent forms to stay ahead of unforeseen enemies and competitors.
For now though, many organizations are still figuring it out. The truth is, we’re entering uncharted territory and no one knows for certain. It will likely follow much of previous technology in the fact that it can be used for both good and bad.
Tech giants like Google and Facebook have made strides to innovate and incorporate AI into the fabric of how they run their companies and deliver their services. But it’s not only the large corporations that are making use of AI. Startups all around the world specializing in AI-focused products and services are popping up quickly. Orbital Insight provides insights and forecasts to various industries using satellites and drones that parse through AI-gathered data. SoundHound helps you identify songs through its AI function and aims to provide deeper capabilities in the voice and conversational intelligence field. Non-profits like OpenAI are creating artificial general intelligence, similar to human beings with a focus on safe and responsible AI innovation.
Acer's aiForge is a development tool that's allowing schools and businesses the much-needed flexibility in training both simple and complex AI solutions. It enables organizations to simplify and prioritize tasks as they see fit while reducing the amount of time needed to bring their models and solutions into reality. This will surely accelerate innovation in the industry.
But AI development is not limited to the big tech giants. Anyone can get involved in AI work just like programming has become an open opportunity for many people spread out across the world. While we’d be right to feel some caution about unrestricted AI development, it’s clear that AI is a promising field and will likely change the future of humanity in many positive ways.
*The opinions reflected in this article are the sole opinions of the author and do not reflect any official positions or claims by Acer Inc.
About Alex Clark: Alex is a contributing writer for Acer. Alex is a Texas-based writer and B2B email marketing strategist specializing in helping technology brands connect to their customers. He has lived all over Asia and has consulted with business clients in numerous industries to grow their brands.