Artificial Intelligence Blending into Society
For as long as we have been pondering the question of our own consciousness, we have been contemplating the possibility of being able to replicate or build it. The invention of “thinking machines” or computers as we know them today, have brought us that much closer.
To learn more, checkout the infographic below created by the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Online Master of Science in Computer Science program.
What is Artificial Intelligence?
Experts define this as a branch of study concerned with the creation of intelligent agents. An agent is considered intelligent if it can perceive its environment and take the appropriate actions that would lead to optimal results. This broad definition makes it possible for a variety of systems to fit the category including modern computers.
A computer is said to be intelligent if it is able to mimic human intelligence, possess some form of visual perception, conduct speech recognition, perform natural language processing, and exhibit rational decision making. Whether these all amount to “thinking” is a rather difficult philosophical question. Alan Turing, a famous British mathematician, proposed a more pragmatic way to test intelligent behavior.
The Turing Test
Turing is a pioneer of computer science who is famous for breaking Nazi secret codes during World War II. He is also considered as the father of artificial intelligence. He proposed that the real measure of a machine’s intelligence is in its ability to exhibit behaviors that are indistinguishable to that of a human.
The standard methodology of the Turing Test requires three players. Player A is a human. Player B is a computer. Both of them will be hidden from the view of Player C who will act as the interrogator. As he talks to them, Player C will need to figure out where he is interacting with a human or robot on the basis of their responses to written questions.
The machine will only pass the test if the interrogator cannot reliably tell the difference between it and a human. Note that it doesn’t matter whether the machine can provide a correct answer to the questions or not. We are simply concerned with its capacity to provide human-like responses. It may seem like an easy task but it isn’t. Only one computer developed in Ukraine is claimed to have beaten the test but the methodology used has been disputed because of deviations from the original protocol.
Mechanical Muses: Inspiration for AI Development
The advancements in AI may have accelerated in the last decade or so but concept is not something new. Even people from antiquity have pondered its possibility in one form or another. Modern inspirations, meanwhile, have come from various popular sources including books, shows, and films that delve into science fiction. These include Star Trek, Blade Runner, The Jetsons, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Terminator, Iron Man, Her, iRobot, and Total Recall.
Artificial Intelligence Today
Tech companies and universities are hard at work to improve AI designs and expand their applications. Take autonomous vehicles, for example. Google has invested huge sums to improve the technology’s accuracy, safety and reliability. It has formed a strategic partnership with Toyota to get valuable manufacturer insights and accelerate the pace of development. More than half of the people surveyed from ten different countries say that they are in favor of driverless technologies.
AI is also widely used in healthcare. PUFF and GermWatch are good examples. PUFF is an expert system which assists in the interpretation of pulmonary function data. It is credited with diagnosing thousands of cases around the globe. GermWatch, on the other hand, is used for the detection of hospital-acquired infections with the goal of improving prevention mechanisms.
Other AI systems are designed for social interaction like JIBO, Siri, and even Barbie. JIBO is dubbed by its creators as The World’s First Social Robot. It was made to interact with people, learning more about them over time including their tastes and preferences. Siri is Apple’s famous virtual assistant that comes along with every iPhone. A study showed by nearly half of iPhone users regularly tap Siri for help. As for Barbie, Mattel developed a special version that is capable of responding to users using AI and a substantial language database.
Back to the Future
While the progress has been tremendous, the goal of a truly human-like AI is still far from the current capabilities of today’s machines. All that we have right now are technologies that focus on a narrow specialization like the ones mentioned above. This is called Artificial Narrow Intelligence or ANI.
Another example of ANI is IBM’s Watson, a computer system that is able to answer questions posed in natural language. It was initially designed to compete in Jeopardy but has since been used in healthcare for utilization management.
In time, perhaps we can create a machine that can have multiple competencies and is able to integrate all its existing knowledge for logical decision-making like a real human.
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