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What Is Artificial Intelligence? A Basic Breakdown:



INTRODUCTION

By common belief, Artificial Intelligence is associated with disruption and magical-mythological-like capabilities. It is pronounced disruptive in the fact that it will add 9% of new jobs to the economy in the year 2030 while eliminating 16% of jobs in industries that have become obsolete. It is imagined giddily as the “future brought to your present”; an innovator’s dream of self-driving cars, automation, and tech that will carry your groceries on a floating platter.


In Hollywood, it is depicted either as robots taking over the world and enslaving human-masters, or as helpful human-like assistants that go by the name of “Jarvis”, “Data”, or “HAL” (A Space Odyssey, 1968).


However, what we commonly believe about Artificial Intelligence is found to be more inexact than what the media, movies, and our acquaintances breathlessly report. It seems that super intelligent AI (whether viewed as a phenomenon or a doomsday) is predicted to occur ten years out, then six, then four, then two… until it arrives just now, sending stock market prices soaring. So with all of this in mind, what truly is AI and why should we care about it?


DEFINITIONS

According to Alex Castrounis’ AI For People And Business, AI is described as “intelligence exhibited by machines that can be used in a beneficial way (e.g., carrying out tasks, making decisions, assisting humans, saving lives).”


Combining this definition with several other sources, AI can be generally defined:

“How a machine is able to use its intelligence (similar to human intelligence) to make decisions, solve intuitive problems, and to perform tasks that usually require human ability.”


A Basic Example:

It is a daily human task to have to delete spam emails from your inbox. You (as a human) must decide with your intelligence what features classify certain messages as spam. This could be a magazine that you unsubscribed to that hasn’t taken you off of their subscribed email list, app notifications, the occasional scammers, etc.


However, there are AI programs that can perform this task for you, called “spam filters”. These programs go through each message in your inbox and put them through an algorithm. Using the parameters above, the program decides which emails classify as spam, and which do not. The spam emails are then deleted by the program without a human having to delete them manually.


As you can see, upon performing this routine task, a machine demonstrates intelligence that is similar to a human’s intelligence. Therefore, it is defined as Artificial Intelligence.


WHY AI IS IMPORTANT

Artificial Intelligence has now become part of our human reality. Over a hundred years, men and science have worked tediously to achieve the progress that we see now in our technology today. Since AI is here in our lifetime and just beginning to emerge, it is important to consider its advantages and disadvantages alike.


In many ways, AI can be exceptionally helpful to improving our human existence. The use of AI in our tech can perform tasks easier, cheaper, faster, and more intelligently than a human could. AI is already being used to perfectly match kidney transplants for sick patients, to translate languages for foreign speakers, advance security measures with facial recognition, and predict stock prices more accurately. There are countless opportunities to improve the industries of health, energy, education, transportation, finance, security, and so much more with AI. There are even discussions about whether AI can be applied to solving climate change, prevent the spread of disease, eliminate poverty, and possibly be used to reach unexplored areas of space!


However, the most prevalent debate about AI is the threat that it poses against humankind. Although there are big dreams for AI to take us closer to the future, it is evident that machines with higher power will surpass our ability to control them. The ethics of Artificial Intelligence will be discussed in more detail later on in this module, but overall, it is important to know the dangers that AI can induce.


WHAT INDUSTRIES AI CONSISTS OF

It is estimated by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) that the industry of AI could contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy in 2030. Click here for the full report:

With this growth, the demand for AI experts and professionals is high. If interested in entering the AI workforce, it must be known that AI is a combination of numerous fields and subjects, which when joined together, produce magnificent AI products. To enter AI, one can have a background in anywhere of the following:

  • Statistics

  • Probability

  • Information Technology

  • Engineering

  • Neuroscience

  • Data Analytics

  • Linguistics

  • Philosophy

  • Design

  • Robotics

The three core industries that make up AI are mainly declared as mathematics, computer science, and data science. Each of these fields are related and exist multilaterally within each other.


AI EXAMPLES

The AI that exists today is much different than what is dreamed up in our minds or what we view in movies. The AI available to us is referred to as “weak” or “narrow” AI. It does not have the ability to think, feel emotion, or have social awareness. It can perform single specific tasks to a high degree, but is flawed at multitasking or demonstrating true cognition. These are some of the most common AI examples:

  • Smart Assistants (Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home)

  • Facial Recognition

  • Speech Recognition

  • Natural Language Processing Programs (Translation)

  • Autonomous Driving (Self-driving cars, Tesla)

  • Recommendation systems (Netflix, Amazon, online shopping)

  • Prediction of stock prices

  • Google Search

  • Autopilots (planes & automated aircraft)

  • Object Identification and Computer Vision

  • Robotics

  • IoT (Internet Of Things)

ETHICAL DEBATES

When thinking about the future, Artificial Intelligence often comes up as a key player for the progress of humankind. It is impressive in the fact that we are able to make machines more like us; thinking, talking, and acting like we do. However, there is a profound debate as to whether such technology is ethical to produce.

Mentioned before, one part of AI’s negative effects is the impact that it will have on international economies. To quote AI leader and pioneer Andrew Ng:

“The biggest harm that AI is likely to do to individuals in the short term is job displacement, as the amount of work we can automate with AI is vastly bigger than before. As leaders, it is incumbent on all of us to make sure we are building a world in which every individual has an opportunity to thrive.” -Andrew Ng

Although AI as an industry is projected to contribute trillions to global economies, the dark side of AI includes the reality that 50 million jobs will no longer be needed when machines fill human positions at a lower cost.


Also concerning is the ability for machines to surpass the power and intelligence of humans. At this stage in time, the creation of super intelligent AI is limited based on the availability of current technology and ideas. However, considering progress 20, 50, or 100 years from now, it is possible that machines will wield more power than they should. In his lifetime, Alan Turing, the inventor of the computer warned:


“It seems probable that once the machine thinking method had started, it would not take long to outstrip our feeble powers… They would be able to converse with each other to sharpen their wits. At some stage therefore, we should have to expect the machines to take control.” -Alan Turing

CONCLUSION

Overall, it is up to each individual to see AI through their own perspective. Many are convinced that AI is the way to a better, brighter, more intelligent, future. They believe that AI is capable of solving the greatest crises that our planet faces today, such as climate change, pollution, overpopulation, disease, poverty, etc. However, there are those who remain uneasy about what AI can do. As the technological advancement of AI increases, unemployment and the diminishment of human influence and freedom will increase in return.


So what does the future hold when it comes to AI? The answers for now are unknown… only time can tell. Now that this technology is in our grasp, it is vital to know what Artificial Intelligence is and what possibilities (both positive and negative) are in store.


SOURCES

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