By Deanna Shoss
If you were to form your opinion about Artificial Intelligence (AI) from movies, you would, quite logically, be freaking out. The machines, aka robots, always end up winning.
They outsmart us. As humans feebly assert their superiority because of their ability to feel, an innocent child befriends a robot, igniting their emotional learning. The machines lock the humans out of whatever system we’ve created, citing our predisposition for conflict or our irrational (to them) priority to save a few at the cost of long-term good for many.
And yet here we are, on a roller coaster, hurtling into a future world that is completely reliant on AI.
Should you be scared? The first step is to understand what AI is.
“Artificial Intelligence scares us when we think that we have detected reasoning from a machine,” says Thierry Hubert, Founder and CEO of Darwin Ecosystem. Like when Alexa began laughing at people. But that turned out to be a command anomaly, not an ironic commentary from a sentient machine.
Those who actually work with AI will tell you it’s not that machines are learning. It’s that they can process more data faster than humans. “Pattern detection is the fundamental ingredient of all cognitive computing associated with AI. Systems do not have an existential prerogative,” says Hubert. “AI unifies our collective knowledge and augments our reasoning ability.”
What may seem like a machine thinking is actually algorithms that allow for pattern detection, structuring natural language, detecting objects on images (think face recognition), translating languages and learning a trend to be able to recognize it to improve diagnostics or predictions.
When you look at it as patterns informing predictions it is easy to see how it works. A child starts to run into traffic. 99.9% of the time someone nearby will grab them and pull them back. A computer ‘nanny’ could easily learn to do this.
Don Zoufal, J.D. C.P.P., Safety and Security Consultant, advises police departments on advanced technologies in law enforcement. Zoufal says AI is well-suited to tasks that require sifting through inordinate amounts of data quickly. Think staggering amounts of data produced by the ubiquitous presence of security cameras, or the Internet of things (IoT). “But machines are not good at context,” says Zoufal who, at least for now, assures that humans are better at complex reasoning.
VR vs AR vs AI
I like to think if I thought it, someone else did too. I can’t be the only one who was a little confused when it all started burgeoning on the intersection (or lack thereof) of AI, AR and VR. Just in case, here’s a quick side bar to distinguish them.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence is about a machine’s ability to detect patterns and categorize. We call AI infused machines smart.” But in reality they can more be described as fast processors with a limitless memory.
Augmented reality (AR)
Augumented reality adds digital elements to a live view, often by using the camera on a smartphone. For example, IKEA has a nifty app called “IKEA Place” where you can “place” items from their catalog into your home to see if/how they will fit. You start with reality, aka your living room, and then augment it with virtual images that look real, that you can see, using the app, through your smart phone. Pokemon Go is another example, a game that places Pokemon characters into real environments.
Virtual reality (VR)
VR is a complete immersion experience that shuts out the physical world. Think of virtual roller coasters, or perhaps a more leisurely canoe float down a calm river. You can have either of those experiences and many more in new “VR-ology” kiosks that have popped up at shopping malls. Basically it’s like a ride. You are sitting in a safe and comfortable pod, but wear glasses (Oculus Rift is one brand name you may hear about) that shut out everything around you so you only see the virtual images on the screen.
In many ways Baby Boomers have the best of both worlds. We enjoyed personal relationships and deep communication throughout our childhood and most of our adult careers. We had fun…and did lots of things our children and grandchildren will thankfully never know about because no one was posting pictures on Facebook or Instagram.
Now that we are concerned about maintaining our independence, AI is coming along with so many innovations to keep us on our own longer—cars that advise you to stay in your lane or sound an alarm if you are about to hit something; in-home assistants to remind you to take your medicine or feed the dog.
Radio Station WIFM says… “As with any change, most people automatically tune into radio station WIFM. What’s In It For Me. What does it mean for me that technology is surging ahead at exponential speeds? We can feel bad for “those old people” (anyone 10 years older than us) or we can relish that we live in an exciting new era.
And we can start somewhere, start now. Ask your children or grandchildren what they are into now. Or start with a challenge you have and it, as in “how can AI help me find my keys (glasses, phone, glass of water I was just drinking, etc.)”
You may not only find that you like it, but that it really can make your life easier.
Additional Resources (some exciting, some scary, some fun)
DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) video on the three waves of AI to learn about origins and where AI is going. (If you believe in conspiracy theories, a government military site would be the place to start!)
Deanna Shoss is a marketer, writer, interculturalist in Chicago. As President and CEO of Intercultural Talk, Inc. she provides digital, intercultural and real life marketing for entrepreneurs and people following their passions post age 50, who need strategy and know-how to adapt to new communication technologies. She speaks Portuguese, Spanish and French and is a certified Body Pump and group fitness instructor.