I recently went to see a film called Chappy. It wasn’t a particularly spectacular film if I have to be brutally honest – the acting was fairly sub-par and of a standard I’d expect in the pilot episode of a series that nobody has heard of and the soundtrack was a little wild for my tastes. What it did offer was a thought provoking look at Artificial Intelligence (AI), dressed up in a Jason Statham style all guns blazing outfit, making it appealing not just to those who like, and are curious about, the idea of AI. It touched upon it’s possibilities in the future, and highlighted how dangerously easily it is to become attached to machines if they exhibit qualities that are even slightly humanistic or intelligent beyond the point of being boringly mechanical.
Sadly, it also seemed to add to the rather annoying over dramatisation of Artificial Intelligence. The premise that it’s some sort of crazy futuristic idea that will only affect our grandchildren to the point where they’re merely observers in a world run by robots and walking circuit boards. In reality, AI is in your pocket, on your TV, your computer, and will probably soon be in your fridge.
As a brief example, here’s a standard day for me, and how AI slots into it.
Last night I googled “women talks about dogs bitch delivery” to try and find this video. It took Google 0.88 seconds to turn that messed up search term into the exact video I was looking for
Part of the reason for the misunderstand of artificial intelligence is because it sounds incredibly cool, and incomprehensibly complicated. when you strip it back, however, and take it word for word, it’s simply just any form of intelligence exhibited by a machine, or anything that isn’t a living being. Something artificial that can understand it’s environment, and take action to maximise its chances of success in said environment. Of course, most of the time the definition of ‘success’ is set by us, humans.
One of the most accessible forms of AI available to all of us is Google Search. More specifically, the Knowledge Graph. When you search for something, for example Da Vinci, you’re not only presented will relevant search results, but also a wealth of information at the side about Da Vinci – his birth date, parents, inventions and more. you’ll also see links to information on his artworks and similar searches – this isn’t pulled in by Google resident Da Vinci expert, but instead pulled in algorithmically by Googles AI, based of what it’s learned from websites, people’s searches and information it can gather from the web and link together.
Machines have already embarrassed us when it comes to chess and “Jeopardy”, and now they’re beating our high scores on Atari games, self taught from scratch with minimal information, in record time.
In the grand scheme of things, humans are absolutely awful drivers. For people 15-24, the primary cause of death is a car accident. The biggest killer to the youth of today is the fact that we, as a lifeform, are shit at driving. What we are good at, however, is creating technology that can grow and learn to be better than we are at driving. Technology that doesn’t speed, text, get drunk, take drugs or fall asleep.
Driverless cars aren’t something you really need to gawk at on Sci-fi movies anymore. they’re here, and they’re clocking up hundreds of thousands of miles, with certain countries and states in the US legalising them, or altering laws to make way for the future of driverless technology.
The next time you go for a meal in a restaurant, look around. You’ll see copious amounts of people completely ignoring everyone they’ve sat with, as they tap on their smartphones. I’m guilty of it, but it also sadly highlights that AI is better at conversation that we are. As well as beating us at games, taking us to work and helping us research, AI is also capable of chatting to us, (and to each other)and responding in a way that’s similar to the way we (used to) interact with each other.
Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, has estimated that robots will reach human levels of intelligence by 2029 (via The Guardian) which essentially means we’ve got around 14 years left before there’s literally no benefit to having you doing your job, instead of an artificially intelligent robot.