What is AI?
Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is a broad term used to describe a machine’s ability to replicate human intelligence. While human and animal intelligence is considered “natural,” computer intelligence is “artificially” created through a series of specially designed algorithms. Actions like learning, reasoning, logic, perception, or creativity—once thought to be exclusive to humans— are now being simulated by technology and used in nearly every industry.
The goal of AI is to mimic human thinking in order to complete both simple and complex tasks. Our current AI is “narrow” and “noncognizant,” meaning that the machines perform objective tasks using data. There is no conscious thinking on the machines’ parts, and they are not driven by emotion like humans. Current narrow AI operates within its pre-determined range of functions.
Where is AI used today?
The future is now—there’s virtually no industry AI hasn’t already affected and changed. Whether we realize it or not, AI is all around us, and it is increasingly playing a more active role in our lives.
When people hear Artificial Intelligence, they almost always think of robots. That’s because mainstream media and big-budget movies tell us thrilling tales of human-like machines slowly becoming self-aware and wrecking havoc. Though this narrative of murderous machines is certainly an entertaining plot line in movies and books, experts don’t expect robotic domination to be a reality.
We use voice-powered assistants like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, or Microsoft’s Cortana without blinking an eye. Asking Siri a question, telling Alexa to add milk to your grocery list, or using a customer service live chat bot is not otherworldly technology to us, but rather commonplace in our everyday lives. This type of narrow, data-based AI has seamlessly integrated itself into the human experience.
AI takes the burden of repetitive action and instant response away from humans, increasing efficiency, performance, and safety. In manufacturing facilities, machines are replacing the tedious tasks on assembly lines. As a result, it is increasingly normal to see humans working alongside machines in manufacturing facilities. The machine’s sensors keep equipment running smoothly, increasing efficiency and productivity while ensuring safety standards are still met.
In the education field, AI has saved teachers tons of time through automated document reading, automated grading, and automated plagiarism checking. Freed from these time-consuming and repetitive tasks, educators now have more time to focus on lesson planning or educational projects that would benefit students.
AI also creates more precise analytics and data, creating the potential to become powerful diagnostic tools. For example, the AI technology in today’s smart watches and fitness trackers gather important data points about the user’s health. These data points can then be analyzed at doctor appointments to gauge the individual’s health.
Perhaps one of the most exciting examples of AI technology in the works is the self-driving car. Equipped with myriads of sensors that capture thousands of data points every millisecond—such as speed, road conditions, and traffic—the autonomous car uses AI to interpret these data points and to act accordingly.
While people readily accept virtual assistants, live chat bots, and robotic manufacturing, many people shrink from the idea of self-driving cars and autonomous airplanes. The idea of glitches and problems in self-driving cars and planes is terrifying, even though humans are equally flawed and capable of creating disaster. There is an expectation ingrained into us that AI is flawless—however, it has flaws just like its creators. It simply must be improved and worked on over time.
Why do you think of the current AI in our society? Does this type of AI remove human control to the point of trepidation? What are your thoughts?
How will AI shape the future of industry?
Regardless of individual industries, AI is everywhere, and it will affect the way we do business across all sectors. It is already used in transportation, manufacturing, finance, healthcare, education, city planning, and much more.
Though media headlines often warn us that AI technology is stealing jobs, experts are optimistic and expect AI to be a vehicle for job creation. Once skilled laborers are freed from repetitive and routine tasks that machines can do—such as, separating things into bins, picking fruit, washing dishes, answering calls—they can then work in new areas and fields that AI technology creates. However, experts do warn that it is essential to retrain and educate displaced workers in these new fields.
Does AI really improve our human experience overall? Or does it complicate it somehow? Is there such a thing as too much AI?
Looking to the future: where is AI going?
Though our current AI is non-cognizant—meaning machines draw conclusions based on inputted data or algorithms—the future does hold the possibility of cognizant AI. Our current AI may not seem narrow or weak, but it lacks human self-awareness, consciousness, and the ability to think for itself.
Machines can certainly process data much faster than we can, but they can’t think abstractly or make decisions informed by memory or experience. There is the possibility that this type of AI could arrive in the future.
What are your thoughts on the future of AI? Are you hopeful, concerned, or worried?
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