There are companies out there working fast and furious to develop artificial intelligence in computers and what will that mean for our human society? Will developers develop themselves out of a job? Can computer artificial intelligence evoke human emotion and move people to buy products and services? If so, I am out of a job. In all seriousness, it will be interesting to see the applications and if it will be used to assist the human race, or to replace it.
Artificial Intelligence Game Changer
Let’s take a look at where we are today. A mere month ago, Google’s computer programme AlphGo defeated South Korean Go champion Lee Sedol.1 The game, “Go,” originated in China and is more complex than chess.2 Lee Sedol has won 18 world championships since becoming a professional player. AlphaGo’s victory was a surprise to most, maybe not to Google, but how did they do it? Google’s DeepMind team targeted Go after IBM’s Deep Blue beat chess champion Gary Kasparov in 1997. They felt that Go was “the only game left above chess.” The DeepMind team built “deep learning” into AlphaGo making it a self-learning programme. The programme will play itself and make adjustments to its own neural-networks based on trial-and-error results. I could see the benefit to this deep learning in other applications. Take for example a new operating system. Typically after release little annoyances are found within the programming which is usually fixed within a few months of the release. What if there was a programme with the preferences/patterns of 1,000 users in it which used the new operating system during a testing period prior to release. It could fix the annoyances during the trials reducing or eliminating the need for a later revision.
Another look at artificial intelligence brings us to companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Apple and IBM who are trying to create software which can learn about us and our habits and then assist us in our daily lives. Think Jarvis from Marvel’s Iron Man. Your own personal, digital butler who can intuitively know what you need and when you need it. We are already on our way (limited on their intuitiveness) with Siri and Cortana. Facebook recently debuted a new form of artificial intelligence which can describe photos in stunning detail. The application for this technology is mainly for people with a visual impairment to allow them to be able to experience Facebook the way anyone else would. With applications like these, maybe artificial intelligence won’t be the end of society. It could actually enhance our lives and give us more time in our day.
How close are we?
Answer: Closer than forecasters predicted. The AlphaGo programme was not forecasted to beat a champion player for another 10 years. Facebook launching their artificial intelligence photo solution, is a huge step forward and Nvidia just announced a chip which will enhance a programme like AlphaGo’s ability for deep learning. Deep learning involves passing data through large collections of crudely simulated neurons. Nvidia’s new chip increases the size of these neuron collections allowing programs to learn from incoming data 12 times quicker. This chip is already being produced and companies like Microsoft and Facebook have already tested it and rave of its capabilities. With Nvidia’s new chip and other developers working to improve the functionality of artificial intelligence, it will not be long before we start seeing some of the benefits from it. Although, our own personal Jarvis might be a little further down the development road.