As you may already know, computers are becoming more and more powerful and can now handle even the most complex tasks. Not only are they able to work faster and more efficiently, but they are also starting to be able to do things that once required a human, including language translation, composing music, and even driving cars.
You may have seen headlines in the news about some of the things machines powered by artificial intelligence can do. However, if you were to consider all the tasks that AI-powered machines could actually perform, it would be quite mind-boggling!
How Rapidly Is Artificial Intelligence Technology Growing?
One of the key features of artificial intelligence is that it enables machines to learn new things, rather than requiring programming specific to new tasks. Therefore, the core difference between computers of the future and those of the past is that future computers will be able to learn and self-improve.
In the near future, smart virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa will know more about you than your closest friends and family members do. Can you imagine how that might change our lives? These kinds of changes are exactly why it is so important to recognize the implications that new technologies will have for our world.
One easy way to get a sense of the kinds of things computers are learning to do is by reviewing some of the ways that AI-powered computers have been able to conquer some of the world’s best human competitors in a variety of games:
1996: IBM’s Deep Blue won against the world’s best chess player, Garry Kasparov.
2011: IBM’s Watson won against the best Jeopardy! players.
2016: Google’s DeepMind won against the world’s best Go player.
2017: Libratus, an artificial intelligence program developed by Carnegie Mellon University, won against the world’s best poker players.
2017: AlphaGoZero, developed by DeepMind, reached the highest level of Go without any human data, simply by teaching itself how to play.
This last achievement, in which DeepMind, a leading AI research company owned by Google, was able to create an AI Go player that learned the game from scratch, was quite a big deal. Although in this instance AI was used simply to master a game, similar technologies will be employed in the future to do things like research cures for terminal diseases.
An important milestone in AI development occurred in June of 2018. The non-profit AI research company OpenAI announced that it had created AI technology that was able to beat the top human teams in the multiplayer strategic game Dota 2. What makes this news so amazing is the speed at which this AI was able to learn how to do this. The company taught the AI players to train by playing the game amongst themselves, and by doing this they were able to acquire in one day the same amount of knowledge and skills that it would take a human 180 years to learn.
American businessman and philanthropist Bill Gates has confirmed that this was a very significant achievement for AI development, as it was the first time that AI has managed to beat humans at a game requiring teamwork and collaboration. This accomplishment also says a lot about the future possibilities of AI, which may include solving complex real-life problems.
Even though AI has been successful at winning several games over humans, this does not mean that AI technology is even close to having human-level intelligence.
intelligence. It might have surpassed humans in mathematical intelligence, but it is nowhere near us in other areas of intelligence.
It is of the utmost importance to highlight this difference because it is one of the most common misconceptions people have about AI. I get asked about this in many of my seminars, typically by younger audience members. They want to know when machines will be able to do everything humans can do. This expectation is mostly the result of all the sensationalistic headlines we continuously see in both mainstream and social media, suggesting that AI is on the verge of having human-level intelligence.
Humans operate with multiple intelligences such as linguistic intelligence, spatial intelligence, musical intelligence, kinesthetic intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, and intrapersonal intelligence, to name a few. Our multiple intelligences are complicated and not completely understood.
Just as artificial intelligence is capable of doing many things that humans cannot, some aspects of our intelligence are uniquely human and allow us to do something that AI cannot.
One example is reading comprehension. According to Gary Marcus, AI expert and author of the highly recommendable book Rebooting AI: Building Artificial Intelligence We Can Trust, although current level AI can read vast quantities of text, it is unable to truly make sense of what it reads in the same way that humans can because it cannot understand concepts like time, place or causality.
Also, AI cannot comprehend what it reads the same way we can because it does not have emotional intelligence. For humans, emotions often play a huge role in how we interpret and comprehend what we are reading.
The main focus for the next few years should be on how to correctly and ethically apply current level AI in several vital sectors such as education, health care, and business operations.
AI-Powered Ambient Computing
Artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly better at performing different tasks in the background, without us even noticing it, and this ability will improve exponentially over time. In other words, in the future, as AI continues to become more and more efficient, we will become less and less aware of it, a phenomenon known as “ambient computing.”
Ambient computing refers to a digital environment in which sensors, devices and intelligent systems use AI to perform complex tasks without us even knowing it. Because AI-powered devices are becoming smaller, we will be able to physically see less and less of them while they do their jobs in the background.
Also, as intelligent systems become more advanced at communicating with each other through the Internet of Things, AI will be able to perform more functions, with greater efficiency, behind the scenes. In addition, as voice commands continue to become more commonplace, there will be less of a demand for devices that require typing, such as smartphones.
Because of this, all the big technology companies are working on developing new personal assistants that can work well in an ambient computing environment, so that many of the tasks we use our smartphones for today will eventually be performed in the background. All of these factors will contribute to the rapid growth of ambient computing.
Our daily lives will be interconnected with various businesses and services that will work for us automatically, without the need for us to actively request it, and sometimes without us even realizing it. Here is one practical example of how this might work, as described by the online news site Venture Beat:
“A heart monitor embedded in your shirt provides real-time data to a cardiologist, who can then send updated prescriptions to your pharmacist, who can, in turn, send an alert to your smartwatch while you are driving home to say that your medications are ready to pick up. Then your GPS can automatically update itself to route you to the pharmacy, where you arrive in your self-driving car and pay for the prescription using your smartphone.”
It’s highly likely that by around 2025 – 2027, so many things in our daily lives will function in an ambient environment that it will be a bit the way electricity is today: something that is always working in the background, which we never think about until it stops working.
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