Science fiction stories regularly delve into the realm of robots or computers running humans and their societies and it’s an interesting concept. One of the aspects of this that is frequently displayed in these stories is Artificial Intelligence.
Artificial Intelligence or AI as it’s commonly referred to is where a machine displays human like intelligence or traits that either make the machine or interactions with it seem more human or where a human or animal like intelligence is built into it is used to help solve a problem of some kind. These days AI seems to be the new kid on the block but in reality it’s been around a while. What’s given it more traction or interest is the modern computers of today and the relative ease with which applications for AI can be accessed.
Why do we even care about AI though? It’s often been stated that a computer is not capable of beating the human brain and it never will so surely if we just use a human to do these jobs it will be better? In some ways that’s very true – driving a car or flying a plane seems to be something that we can do very well and a computer will struggle with. We’re able to learn things and overcome the daily variations that occur with these kinds of activities.
Computers however, are able to crunch numbers far, far better than we are though and this is the basis of AI. AI is where computers are able to take data, process it and give their human masters the answers they need, like how many craters are on Enceladus, or how long are the cracks in the ice or what is the chemical makeup.
What does this make AI? This makes AI a powerful human augmentation tool, we’re able to expand our abilities and gather data faster and more accurately. This is not it’s only use though, where it can best help starts with us…
The human brain is limited and fallible, terrible at working out probability, full of biases, programmed to lie about how good it is and to believe anything it is told. This makes us pretty bad at working out the world around us, just with the limited set of inputs we do have. The world and indeed the universe is made up of so much more and we’re just not able to perceive it, let alone process it. We need tools to to help us find out how it actually works and help us better understand it and how we can best use it to our advantage. This is one of the big uses for AI, giving us a factual and logical model of the world or universe in which we live.
So bearing in mind all of this – what does AI mean for the human race? Armies of robots that will take care of us or as in dystopian sci-fi stories control and conquer us? I would say this is highly unlikely, again is the human brain making us think the worst. The reality is is that AI is already part of our lives, it’s already in use. AI is being used to explore the universe at an even deeper level, to find the patterns and meaning in things we can’t fathom, to run the autonomous vehicles that are starting to emerge and it’s on our phones and computers, helping us find the answers to everyday questions.
AI is a tool for us to expand the possibilities of function and problem solving and this series of posts on AI will explore the possibilities for what it can do for the human race, both now and in the future
© Simon Farnell 2013 – 2022
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