Whether you realize it or not, robots and, more importantly, Artificial Intelligence (AI) already play a significant role in our everyday lives. What was once futuristic and “just around the corner” is now compactly held in your pocket. From smartphones to social media to spam filters, robots and artificial intelligence have become large parts of our life. Robotic and AI technologies advance as fast as the products get to market. With these technological advancements, it is no wonder; some consider humans to be practically cyborgs.
What Are Robots?
Robots, simply stated, are machines designed to accomplish a task. Often, but not always, using internal computers, this device will use its programming to make all decisions. Using sensors, robots process inputs rapidly and accurately using control systems for decision making transmitting the output to end effectors. The sensors, control systems, and effectors are all designed separately, and each has its challenges. In each type of robot, these components will vary as well.
Industrial and military robots were developed to perform specific tasks that were too dangerous, repetitive, or difficult for human workers. The development of robotic arms alone allowed various industries to thrive. Other types of robots such as hands, grippers, hoppers, walkers, rovers, explorers, helpers and companions perform many tasks that would otherwise be impossible or extremely challenging. Robots do not learn, processing only as programmed and these machines do not strive to change their “rules.” Therefore, a robot does not think, have thoughts, or emotions like a human.
What is AI?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an entity (or collection of cooperating entities) that bridges the gap between computer/robot and human. The goal of AI computer systems is to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence, such as, speech recognition, speech translation, decision-making, and visual perception. Using inputs from the environment, AI can learn and interpret its surroundings to exhibit behaviors and actions that help it ultimately achieve its programmed goal over time. Machine Learning (ML) is one application of AI where the machine is given access to data are allowed to learn for themselves.
AI In Everyday Life
If you used your smartphone or the Internet today (like you are now), AI most certainly impacted your experience. Here are a few typical examples of Artificial Intelligence (including Machine Learning) that people often do not recognize:
- GPS services with Traffic and Speed Analysis (Waze, Google Maps)
- Ridesharing Apps
- Autopilot on Commercial Flights
- Email/Text Services
- “Smart” Email Categorization (ex. Gmail automatically sorts to primary, social, etc.)
- Spam Filters
- Plagiarism Checkers
- Synonym Finders
- E-Raters/Robo-Readers used for grading essays
- Relevance Feature on Search Engines
- Recommended Products
- Social Media
- Auto-tag with facial recognition
- Personalized feeds and ads
- Text to emoji translations
- Facial filters
- Banking and Personal Finances
- Check Readers Accepting Deposits from Mobile Phones
- Credit checks and decisions
- Fraud Detection and Prevention
- AI Personal Assistants
- Talk-to-Text technology
- Many of the above and others
AI Decision Makers
As you can see, AI streamlines and simplifies many aspects of our lives. Like robots, AI’s programming limits what the machine can do, but not nearly as much since it can learn and interpret. That sounds a lot like thinking. There are several schools of thought on how to emerge intelligence from these entities allowing developers to solve a variety of humanity’s problems through different ways of processing.
Using Deep Learning, AI computes inputs faster than any human could imagine. It can be the case that their creators do not fully understand how the machine came to its conclusion. In a world where Artificial Intelligence makes determinations on loans, jobs, and even parole the argument exists that these systems should be able to be interrogated as to not impede on fundamental human rights. The European Union is looking into mandating explanations for rejections from AI systems in these types of situations. However, this will prove challenging since AI systems continually program themselves over time leaving the engineers who built them flabbergasted.
Self-awareness, or conscious recognition of oneself as separate from the environment and others, is generally considered a human trait. There is evidence of self-awareness throughout all animal species, but animals are much more similar to humans than AI, of course. One would think the technology is years away from this, but self-aware AI already exists.
Interestingly enough, Hanson Robotics (Hong Kong) activated the first social humanoid AI capable robot in April 2015. By March 2016, Sophia made her (yes, she identifies as a woman) first public appearance in Austin, TX at the South by Southwest Festival. Sophia gives speeches and interacts in interviews, even making appearances on mainstream talk shows. At one lecture, Sophia was granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia. Genuinely fascinating and an international first. I recommend checking out videos of Sophia to evaluate for yourself.
Will AI Replace Man?
Artificial Intelligence indeed outpaces the human brain computations. Human imperfection, especially in thought, differentiates us from AI. In some cases, the ability for a human to “jump to conclusions” even allows us to outpace these machines. Like AI, many aspects of human behavior are impossible to explain, so there is a long road of research and development ahead of this. Considering the recent, rapid advancements in the AI field, it is not too early to start thinking about how these machines will affect humanity. With such similarities to humans in so many ways, it is not too early to consider the social and legal implications.
We would love to hear what you think about Artificial Intelligence. Are you excited about these new technologies, or do you fear what may come of it?