Talking tech since 2003

Artificial intelligence is the latest big thing, and it’s causing ripples in the world of technology. The latest advancements in AI are pervading through virtually every area of society. Now, you can find AI being used in applications as diverse as live dealer online casinos and in bank chatbots – something which would have been unthinkable just a couple of years ago. So, now that 2020 is just around the corner, what does the future hold in store for AI? 

How Is AI Being Used Today?

Artificial intelligence is a phrase which is often misused, however, there’s no doubt that this technology is appearing in more industries than could ever have been imagined. It’s been used in warfare and in healthcare, it’s helping people to make music, it’s scrutinizing whether you’re creditworthy or not, and it’s even altering photos taken on your smartphone for you. In essence, AI is making decisions that can impact your life, even if you haven’t realized it yet. 

It can be difficult to know where AI is being deployed these days. Some products which state that they have AI abilities actually don’t use the technology in its true form. You need only look at the Genius X toothbrush from Oral-B which was supposed to have AI functionality but which instead only gives the user simple feedback to say whether they’re brushing their teeth effectively to see how the term artificial intelligence is being used willy-nilly.

Let’s add to that the confusion amongst the general public about what artificial intelligence really means in practice. Non-experts often fall into the trap of thinking that AI means a science-fiction version of conscious computers that are much smarter than any human. So far, this type of technology doesn’t exist, and if it ever does, it’ll be known as Artificial General Intelligence rather than AI. 

What Does AI Mean, Then?

Rather than using the catch-all term AI, it might be better to use the term “machine learning”. This is one subtype of AI which encompasses virtually every method which is impacting the world today. 

Machine learning means that computers are enabled to learn things by themselves. It can do this by using big data to find patterns that will eventually allow them to make decisions in much the same way as a human. If you imagine that you need a machine to be able to identify a cat, for example, you could simply show it an enormous array of images of cats of all different types. 

The computer will then check through all of those images, connecting the dots to identify what a cat really looks like. A human then tests the programming, again and again, keeping only the best versions so that over time, the computer develops the skills of identifying a cat on sight.

The big benefit of this is that there’s no need to program a computer. Yes, humans are required to do a fair amount of tinkering with the programming, improving the way in which the system can process the data, but there’s no need to actually tell the computer exactly what it’s looking for. This means it’s capable of spotting patterns that could easily be missed by humans or may never even have been thought of in the first place. Since all that the program requires is data, it can be trained on an enormous array of jobs. 

What’s The Catch?

The one major problem with AI is that if humans aren’t explicitly teaching computers, how can they be sure that it’s making the decisions in the right way. Machine learning computers are unable to explain the way that they think, therefore even algorithms which perform well may be doing so for all the wrong reasons. 

Not only that, since the only thing that the computer knows is the data with which it’s fed, it could end up picking up a very biased opinion about the world. Alternatively, it may only excel at narrow tasks that appear similar to data which it’s seen in the past. A machine doesn’t have the same amount of common sense as a human, and since it cuts corners it cannot play by the rules that humans do.

What Will Happen With AI In The Future?

So, where is AI heading? Headlines are always announcing a major breakthrough, but some experts believe that we’ve hit a plateau. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s going to be no more progress though. AI has arguably hit an age of implementation – the moment where technology begins to leave the laboratory and enter real-world applications. It’s likely that AI is going to become the norm pretty quickly. 

At the moment, AI or machine learning as we should probably call it, may be something new that is under-examined and unexplained. But in the future, it’s going to become such a normal feature of everyday life that we’ll probably never notice!

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