How will Artificial Intelligence (A.I) change the world?

The primary focus of this blog is to foresee how Artificial Intelligence (AI) will come into action and its role play in human existence. In order to

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The primary focus of this blog is to foresee how Artificial Intelligence (AI) will come into action and its role play in human existence. In order to better understand how AI is likely to grow I intend to first explore the history and current state of AI. By showing how its role in our lives has changed and expanded so far and thus be able to predict its future trends.

In 1956, John McCarthy first coined the term artificial intelligence at Dartmouth College. At this time electronic computers, the obvious platform for such a technology were still less than thirty years old, the size of lecture halls and had storage systems and processing systems that were too slow to do the concept justice. It wasn’t until the digital boom of the 80’s and 90’s that the hardware to build the systems on began to gain ground on the ambitions of the AI theorists and the field really started to pick up. If artificial intelligence can match the advances made last decade in the decade to come it is set to be as common part of our daily lives as computers have in our lifetimes.

Currently artificial intelligence is already a major part of our lives. For example there are several separate AI based systems just in Microsoft Word. The little paper clip that advises us on how to use office tools is built on a Bayesian belief network and the red and green squiggles that tell us when we’ve misspelled a word or poorly phrased a sentence grew out of research into natural language. However, you could argue that this hasn’t made a positive difference to our lives, such tools have just replaced good spelling and grammar with a labour saving device that results in the same outcome. For example I compulsively spell the word ‘successfully’ and a number of other word with multiple double letters wrong every time I type them, this doesn’t matter of course because the software I use automatically corrects my work for me thus taking the pressure off me to improve. The end result is that these tools have damaged rather than improved my written English skills. Speech recognition had a very poor start, as the success rate when using it was too poor to be useful unless you have perfect and predictable spoken English, but now its progressed to the point where its possible to do on the fly language translation. The system in development now is a telephone system with real time English to Japanese translation. These AI systems are successful because they don’t try to emulate the entire human mind the way a system that might undergo the Turing test does. They instead emulate very specific parts of our intelligence. Microsoft Words grammar systems emulate the part of our intelligence that judges the grammatical correctness of a sentence. The voice recognition system emulates another distinct subset of our intelligence, the ability to deduce the symbolic meaning of speech. And the ‘on the fly translator’ extends voice recognitions systems with voice synthesis. This shows that by being more accurate with the function of an artificially intelligent system it can be more accurate in its operation.

AI has already made a big difference to our lives in leisure pursuits, communications, transportation, sciences and space exploration. It can be used as a tool to make more efficient use of our time in designing complex things such as microprocessors or even other AI’s.

In the near future it is set to become as big a part of our lives as computer and automobiles did before it and may well begin to replace people in the same way the automation of steel mills did in the 60’s and 70’s. Many of its applications sound incredible, robot toys that help children to learn, intelligent pill boxes that nag you when you forget to take your medication, alarm clocks that learn your sleeping habits or personal assistants that can constantly learn via the internet. However many of its applications sound like they could lead to something terrible. Presently there is more progressed research into AI soldier robots that look like small tanks and assess their targets automatically without human intervention. Such a device could also be re-applied as cheap domestic policing. Fortunately the dark future of AI is still a Hollywood fantasy and the most we need to worry about for the near future is being beaten at chess by a children’s toy.