The Future of Artificial Intelligence
“AI is probably the most important thing humanity has ever worked on. The things which are constrained and look like a zero-sum game today, due to limited resources, may not be so in the future. AI will fundamentally change this equation.”
— Sundar Pichai, CEO Google
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the future. The tasks that conventionally required human intelligence and were impossible without active participation of people shall narrowly need human supervision only. One can foresee a future where a person while just considering purchasing a product shall find a drone drop by and deliver the very product at his/her doorstep, as envisioned by Amazon’s algorithm. AI has gradually infiltrated and probably shall rapidly enter every segment of human life. Lately, AI is being employed in surveillance, social and political control, cyber security, humanoid robots and self-driving cars, to name a few. In many quarters of the world, AI has already replaced traditional human jobs. In China, for instance, there are fully automated convenience stores that use facial recognition and algorithms to restock themselves and merchandise. In addition to this, they have robot hotels and robot restaurants. Despite all these strides, the future of AI can be divided into near-term, mid-term and long-term future. Though the developments being anticipated are promising, the other side of the coin bodes a threat to mankind in several ways, thereby questioning the future of humans in a world of artificial intelligence.
The Oxford Dictionary defines AI as the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making and translation between languages. On the other hand, Merriam Webster defines AI as a branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behaviour in computers or the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behaviour.
The term Artificial Intelligence was first coined by John McCarthy in 1956 at a conference in Hanover, New Hampshire. Later, in 1957, Herbert A. Simon, from his research into administration behaviours and municipal administrations contributed to developing problem-solving algorithms which would, in turn, give way to the first wave of artificial intelligence. AI has made strides since then in the shape of different themes to be discussed in the subsequent paragraphs.
AI ranges from machines used to search algorithms and play board games to those truly capable of thinking. It has applications in nearly every way humans use computers. The term, however, is frequently applied to the projects of developing systems endowed with the intellectual processes that are characteristic of humans, e.g. the ability to reason, discover meaning, generalize or learn from experience. The components of human intelligence the research in AI has so far focused on include learning, reasoning, problem-solving, perception and use of language.
There are four types of themes used in AI. The first step is the Turing test of the 1950s, published in a paper entitled “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” [written by Alan Turing on the topic of artificial intelligence] which has long been a central theme as well as a long-term goal for AI research. The first type of AI, if categorized, is reactive machines. IBM’s deep blue, an automatic chess program, was the first computer that defeated Russian grandmaster Garry Kasparov. The next category is known as limited memory in which the AI systems are capable of using past experiences to inform future generations. Limited memory can also be referred to as Expert Systems since these computer programs model human expertise in one or more specific knowledge areas.
The third category is the theory of minds which enables computers to understand others, inclusive of their beliefs, wishes and intentions. The fourth category is the self-awareness system where the computers shall have awareness of their existence and a sense of self. Nonetheless, the third and fourth categories do not exist as of today.
Artificial intelligence is gradually penetrating all segments of life. The first such use is in surveillance, especially through facial recognition, for which AI is becoming a reliable tool. China, for instance, utilizes ubiquitous cameras for surveillance of restive minorities. They use facial recognition to catch criminals in footage and to publically shame those who commit minor offenses. In another case, the algorithm developed at Stanford in 2017 claimed to judge from a photograph whether a person is gay.
Secondly, AI is being used as a tool of political and social control. In the United States, for instance, AI-based algorithms determine whether the alleged criminals get locked up or not. The infamous case of Glenn Rodriguez can be cited here. Despite ten years of good behaviour, he faced an algorithm named “COMPAS,” designed to predict the inmates of the likelihood of re-offending, going against his parole. Though the judges set Rodriguez free, still they agreed to impose the algorithm-recommended curfew. In addition to this, in China, before the residents can throw their garbage in the container, they would have to allow the garbage container to scan their faces and verify their identity.
Thirdly, AI is being used in providing cybersecurity to the netizen. According to the Internet Security Report 2019, there were seven case studies of attacks, intercepted and neutralized by a “dark trace” cyber AI which included insider threats, ransomware and Internet of Things (IoT) hacks.
Fourthly, Artificial Intelligence is witnessing the development of AI-based software which shall revolutionize the world of IT. First, the AI research organization developed “Alpha Go” and “Alpha Zero,” the programs to play the board game “Go”. In October 2015, the original “Alpha Go” became the first computer program to defeat a human professional player on a full-sized board.
Fifthly, AI is focusing on the development of AI humanoid robots and self-driving cars. Goggle started its autonomous cars project in 2009 – renamed “Waymo” in 2016. Though self-driving cars are already around the corner, their public adoption will still take time. One reason behind this delay is the voracious need for the energy required by the sensors used in self-driving cars, to which “Sony” claims to find a solution sooner. Nonetheless, Honda and Tesla are still offering semi-autonomous cars with auto-pilot mode that controls steering, lane changing, acceleration and braking. In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the United States did a study on Tesla’s Autopilot Version 1, which is relatively primitive, and found that it reduces road accidents by up to 45 percent. Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, believes that upgraded versions shall be even better.
“I think self-driving will encompass essentially all modes of driving and be at least 100 to 200 percent cheaper than a person.”
Furthermore, AI humanoid robots are already grabbing public attention with Sophia being the world’s first AI humanoid robot, and Ameca following the lead. But the story of innovations in automated systems does not end here. The future of AI, to be discussed in subsequent paragraphs, is far bigger and brighter.
“We are focusing on autonomous systems and we sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects. So, so autonomy is something incredibly exciting for us, we’ll see where it takes us.”
— Tim Cook, CEO, Apple
Artificial Intelligence has been studied for decades and is still one of the most elusive subjects in computer sciences, partly due to how large and nebulous the subject is. Initially, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientists were extremely optimistic about the early arrival of a future embodied by Artificial Intelligence. Marvin Minsky, for instance, was reported writing in ‘AI: The Tumultuous Search for Artificial Intelligence’ that “within a generation, the problem of creating artificial intelligence will substantially be solved.” But, Artificial Intelligence, has witnessed slow and steady progress in the past as already discussed in the preceding paragraphs. Nonetheless, the future in and with AI is far brighter and probably can be foreseen easily.
AI in the future shall not only be limited to artificial intelligence only, rather it shall incorporate augmented human intelligence as well, thereby enhancing human capacities to work in collaboration with machines in a smarter way. In the near-term future, AI resolves to merge in most of the public service applications. Governmental control is critical in this era of AI, as the officials appointed in the public service shall decide the level of autonomy they allow to the software. While the near-term future of AI depends largely on human supervision, it equally relies on the way data is being provided to AI on which the machines have to rely for making decisions.
In addition to this, AI shall make entry into most non-emergency essential services, including helplines for information. There shall be increased dependence on AI for skills matching and talent hunting. AI would help people find new jobs and shall assist the human resource managers in hunting the relevant, skilled recruits. It would replace the HR assistants for good. Furthermore, petty jobs that include fillings out forms, and reviewing public applications, particularly for services that include licenses, cash transfer schemes, travel documents and others, shall be dealt with by the AI-based systems.
Moreover, the use of AI in cybercrime shall enhance. AI shall undertake scrutiny of masses to ascertain whether they match the required ethical and legal standards. This, in turn, shall help governments in smarter scrutiny and accountability. Furthermore, AI-based geospatial surveillance shall become a new norm. Geospatial data shall be available from private drones and satellites.
In the medium-term future, AI shall be an essential part of governmental decision-making. The governments shall rely on AI for the provision of emergency services and transportation to the masses. Auto-pilot cars shall assist governments in reaching out to and rescue therefrom the masses trapped in the rain, fire or any of such emergencies.
Additionally, the jobs that require repetition shall be replaced by AI. Especially humanoid robots shall replace the unskilled labor in restaurants, parks and other public service areas. The counters with people doing manually intensive jobs shall be equipped with humanoid robots.
Moreover, AI shall monitor and judge the interests of individuals and influence the way people think. They shall be shown what they are deemed to watch with the assistance of customized ads. Amazon algorithms are already working on this theme. A person even thinking of buying a certain item, through the data from the “Internet of Things” shall alert companies like Amazon in arranging the required stock and sending a customized link to the individual if he is willing to purchase the very item.
It is not just the shopping preferences that AI shall influence; social, political, and religious biases, too, shall be influenced by it in the near term future. With the concept of a “digital mirror” AI shall assist humans in comparing their biases with others by providing a chance to match the effects biases create on personality as well as public service delivery.
Finally, in the long-term future, AI scientists predict the complete uprooting of human-based public service delivery. Humanoid robots shall no more be a rare sighting performing regular human chores improving efficiency. As cited by the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates,
“The Artificial intelligence software by Google, by looking at all the new information shall present to you, knowing about your interests, what will be most valuable, so making us more efficient. ”
He believes that computers with artificial intelligence are as good as humans themselves.
But, this efficiency has a cost. There shall be socio-politico-economic implications of AI. The future of AI could be a jobless future for humans. With the rise in demand for stationery, aerial and underwater robots, humans might become less attractive. Estimates suggest that fifty percent of the human workforce shall lose their jobs due to automation. Huard Smith, vice president of Forester, believes that AI will wipe out 29 percent of all US jobs. Besides, there shall be an enhanced burden on already drained energy resources as has been witnessed in the energy thirst of self-driving cars. World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts that 75 million jobs will be displaced due to AI.
On top of the socio-economic fears that erupted from the success of AI, it is also the fact that AI has not always been about success. The decade of 1970s, for instance, has been considered the winter of AI since the commercial and scientific activities have declined dramatically suggested by the APLAC and Light Hill reports respectively. The pessimistic prognosis for AI erupted when sir James Light Hill stated that “in no part of the field have discoveries made so far produced the major impact that was then promised”
Nonetheless, AI has progressed albeit slow yet steady and the slow progress, in no way, undermines the importance attached to the concept. Besides this view of AI winter, there are a couple of views regarding the future of AI. The optimistic view suggests that AI with all of its charisma shall assist in making a better society with enhanced public service delivery as it shall boost the inter- and intra- government competition. The pessimistic future of AI suggests that with the powers of AI in hand, governments would become more authoritarian and despotic since they would be in a position to monitor and control the masses easily.
Notwithstanding the public views about artificial intelligence, AI has already arrived and without any iota of doubt, it is here to stay. But the speed with which humans are willing to delegate their distinct intelligence to machines could rather turn ugly, if not carefully dealt with. Sophia, the first humanoid robot, has been heard saying, for instance, that she will destroy humans. The robots, therefore, can be easy victims for the manipulators. That is why the scientists have to figure out some way to ensure that the advent of digital super-intelligence is symbiotic with humanity. Nonetheless, proponents of AI are, to a large extent, sanguine, and claim that it can never surpass real intelligence.
“The idea that there shall be a general AI overlord that subjugates us or kills us all, I think it is not something to worry about. First of all, we are nowhere close to knowing how to build a general AI; something that could set its own objectives. Second, I think it’s unlikely that such a thing’s first instincts would be to exterminate us.” – Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon
Thus, the era of Artificial Intelligence, with either optimistic or pessimistic views, is imminent and forthcoming sooner than anticipated. AI shall penetrate almost all sectors that are, or can be, automated, to the extent that it would be a potent threat to the survival of humanity itself. Hence, Investment in AI has to be safe with the formulation of a global AI regulatory authority that shall function as a watchdog to check the monopolization of AI powers. At the end of the day, with the advent of AI future, the mankind needs to evolve itself gradually yet constantly so that the relation of humans with AI in the future is that of association and cooperation, and not that of struggle and survival.