With the rise of artificial intelligence, we’re on the verge of breakthroughs in healthcare, transportation, and even war. But how does AI work? What are its limitations? And will it eventually lead to humanity’s demise? Read this introduction to AI to learn about what it is, how it works, and where it’s going in the future.
The promise of artificial intelligence
There’s no denying that A.I. is on a roll. The problem is, a lot of people don’t really understand it—or they think they do, but actually have misconceptions about what it really means for business and society. To help clear up some confusion, here are some basics you need to know before getting started with A.I.: What is artificial intelligence? How does it work? Is it something we should be afraid of? What are its limitations? And most importantly: what are its benefits?
The limitations of artificial intelligence
There are many limitations that prevent artificial intelligence from equaling or surpassing human intelligence, but we can’t say for sure how long it will take scientists to overcome each one. The most obvious limitation is computational power; even with our current generation of supercomputers, machines cannot come close to matching human cognition because they’re much slower and don’t have as much memory capacity. That said, progress in fields like quantum computing may soon make a massive difference in machine learning capabilities. Another limitation is knowledge: computers aren’t yet able to learn new things on their own—they need humans to program them with information about specific tasks. But again, as algorithms improve and more knowledge becomes available online (see next point), computers may soon be able to learn without being programmed at all.
How can we get the most out of artificial intelligence?
The thing about artificial intelligence is that everyone thinks they know what it is—it’s a robot, right? It’s man vs. machine in a futuristic world, with metal fighting metal and humanity on one side or another. But while science fiction has done much to shape our perceptions of AI, there are many ways in which reality differs from Hollywood. Let’s take a look at how we can get the most out of artificial intelligence today.
While artificial intelligence is often spoken of as though it were synonymous with computer technology, people tend to have very different ideas about exactly what sorts of technologies fall under its umbrella. Artificial intelligence encompasses more than simply computerized robots; some people use the term to refer only to technologies that replace human labor with machines (such as self-driving cars) while others use it interchangeably with cognitive computing. When most people talk about artificial intelligence, they’re referring to a subfield of computer science known as machine learning, which focuses on training computers so that they can learn and make decisions for themselves based on information fed into them.
How can we get more out of artificial intelligence? The key is in finding ways to use it as a learning tool. One of machine learning’s big pluses is that computers that have been programmed with machine learning algorithms can study the information presented to them and make sense of it all on their own, with minimal intervention from human programmers.
The benefits of artificial intelligence
An artificial intelligence system doesn’t get tired, it doesn’t make mistakes. But what does that mean for business? It means that businesses can save money and time by using an AI system instead of a human employee. It also means that businesses will be able to scale faster because they won’t have as many employees on their payrolls. The world is moving toward an era where machines are doing more and more of our work—and while there may be some pushback at first, we’ll all come around eventually. A good example of how AI can benefit your business is Google Translate: when you translate text into another language, you don’t need to know both languages; you just need to type in one language and out comes another language. No matter how complex or simple your business, AI has something to offer.
When might AI put our jobs at risk?
The question is not whether humans will be replaced by machines, but when it will happen, says Moshe Vardi, a computer scientist at Rice University in Houston. We are approaching a time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task. I believe that society needs to confront this question before it is upon us: If machines are capable of doing almost any work humans can do, what will humans do? asks Vardi. I believe that we need to be talking about [this] now, he says. If human-level artificial intelligence is ever developed, it will probably lead to massive unemployment and inequality. This could happen even if intelligent machines don’t put people out of work directly. For example, self-driving cars might not only take people’s jobs—they might also replace bus drivers, delivery truck drivers, taxi drivers and so on. Sooner or later someone will realize that technology would allow all these occupations to be done better and more cheaply by robots than by humans.
Should we be afraid of superintelligent machines?
The short answer is no. The long answer is actually longer than you might expect and there are nuances that differentiate true artificial intelligence from machine learning and deep learning (see below). To get a real picture of how technology could affect us, we need to look past all those scary movies depicting robots who want nothing more than to kill us. Instead, we should be looking at where today’s technology is leading our society; what are its limitations? And what can it do for us? In other words, let’s stop worrying about whether or not computers will eventually rise up against their human creators and instead focus on what they can do right now.