Artificial intelligence has been a buzzword in the tech world for several years now, but what does it actually mean? In short, artificial intelligence refers to ‘the theory and development of computer systems, which are able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence ‘ – but this definition is very vague, and can cover anything from self-driving cars to Apple’s Siri.
When did it all begin?
AI is nothing new; in fact it’s been around for almost 80 years. Mastermind, Alan Turing, is thought to be the first person to theorise it, when he published his 1950s paper ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’ in which he explained how computers would one day be able to ‘think’. Six years later, John McCarthy coined this theory as ‘artificial intelligence’.
Since Turing’s paper, AI has been of big interest (and concern) for many top scientists and has paved the way for future technology.
AI today and tomorrow
These are just some of the industries you can expect to see AI in:
From simulators, to speech recognition software for air traffic controllers; AI has helped aviation come a long way in recent years. Passengers are benefiting too, with airlines such as EasyJet and Emirates using AI to create chatbots for customer service and self-service kiosks. Looking ahead, it’s hoped that AI will help improve operational efficiency in the aviation industry.
AI is already being used to ease teaching pressure for tutors. AI tutors can quickly adapt to a student’s learning style to deliver customised support and instruction. As well as this, AI is being used for more mundane tasks, such as grading and lesson planning.
As AI continues to develop, we could see the traditional classroom format completely eradicated, as education will be able to be delivered anytime anywhere; but only time will tell how far AI’s influence on education will reach.
The use of AI in finance is widespread. Portfolio management for example has developed greatly over the past five years thanks to ‘robo-advisors’, which are digital platforms that use AI algorithms to create personalised finance portfolios. AI can also be used to improve fraud detection, which continues to become more prevalent in today’s society.
AI is still very much in the early stages for medicine; however, there are high hopes that it will revolutionise the industry. For example, you may no longer need to see your GP every time you’re ill. Thanks to AI, new apps are being developed to offer remote consultations on our smartphones. Furthermore, AI could even be used to predict diseases; meaning screening and treatment can be offered to patients earlier. Lastly, AI could also be used in clinical trials to help choose the most suitable participants; resulting in smaller, more efficient and less expensive trials.
Military forces all over the world are becoming increasingly interested in the potential applications of AI in modern warfare. For example, last July, the US military launched ‘Project Maven’ with Google to use AI to analyse footage caught by drones to identify objects of interest. This will undoubtedly save a lot of time for human workforces, who already spend thousands of hours going through footage, as drones become ever more popular.
Furthermore, thanks to developments in AI, over 30 countries already have or are developing automonomous armed drones; which have more precision and control than ever before. These autonomous drones, which require no human intervention, could revolutionise modern warfare. But is it right to put our battles in the hands of robots? Top tech experts such as Elon Musk are already warning that “AI is more dangerous than nuclear weapons” and could lead to an all-out cyberwar.
Aside from drones, military robots are becoming prevalent in warzones, with Russia already putting them to use in Syria, to complete a variety of tasks from transport to search, rescue and even attack.
The transport industry has invested heavily in AI, especially for the development of driverless cars. In fact, on-road testing has already begun, with large corporates such as Uber testing out their self-driving taxis in several US states. Further afield, insurance companies could use AI when accidents happen to analyse the incident and determine the right course of action. It’s even thought that AI could be used to predict and minimise the amount of accidents!
However, it’s not just about driverless cars; in the future AI could have big implications for transportation planning and design to improve the efficiency of our cars and roads.
Advantages of AI
One of the biggest advantages of AI is its efficiency. Many businesses are therefore turning to AI to save time, increase productivity and save us from mundane tasks.
Furthermore, AI is extremely accurate, meaning it can often complete tasks with minimal risk and reduce the chance of “human errors”; which, we as humans will inevitably make from time to time. This will obviously come in handy in areas such as medicine and transport, where precision is vital.
Lastly, AI’s influence is widespread and will have a positive impact on every day aspects of life, meaning everyone will be able to benefit from it. From chatbots improving retail customer service to advances in medicine – AI has the chance to make a real difference.
Disadvantages of AI
However, whilst AI has real potential to improve our lives for the better, the costs required to build and maintain the complex infrastructure necessary to deliver the technology is huge. Billions have already been invested in AI, but this will pale into comparison with what will be needed to integrate it into our lives.
Leading on from this, while the thought of an easy life free from admin, mundane tasks and so on is appealing, some worry that giving AI too much responsibility could lead to widespread unemployment and ‘boredom’.
There’s also a large debate around ethics – is it morally right to replace humans with robots? And what ethical rights will robots have? We’ve probably all seen the Hollywood action-thriller I, Robot where things take a turn for the worst. While this is highly unlikely and undoubtedly dramatic, there is a real risk that if AI is put in the wrong hands it could have serious consequences.
Furthermore, artificial intelligence does not possess the feelings and emotions that humans do. While AI has improved its ability to read emotional reactions in humans, this doesn’t necessarily mean AI understands these emotions and how to deal with them – which could limit its application. It’s therefore unlikely that AI will ever fully replace the connection between one human and another.
There’s no denying that AI will have a big impact on our daily lives. Whilst it’s hard to tell how quickly and widespread this impact will be, the research is promising, but as with any innovation, there are limitations. Will we ever be able to fully trust robots and how much responsibility are we willing to give them? Time will tell.