The Allure of Artificial Intelligence

by Diana Drake

Did you ever watch the 2015 movie Chappie? Set in the 22nd Century in South Africa, it’s about a robotic police force fighting crime, the development of an artificial intelligence chip, and a robot named Chappie who begins to think like a human. Even since 2001 when Steven Spielberg’s science fiction drama AI hit theaters, humanoid robots and artificial intelligence have been considered synonymous. In reality, though, the artificial intelligence industry is much broader. This essential part of the technology sector aims to create intelligent machines of all kinds that work and react like humans.

Artificial Intelligence is one of the hottest industries for start-up companies and investors alike. According to a recent report by McKinsey & Co., which analyzes industries, the entrepreneurial activity unleashed by new artificial intelligence developments attracted three times as much investment in 2016—between $26 billion and $39 billion—as it did three years earlier. Investors see AI as a great place to put their money, especially in the U.S. and China.

If it all sounds so other-worldly, it’s not. AI is much more of a computer science reality than fiction these days, and it’s likely to be a big part of your future. Here are five fast facts to help you start wrapping your brain around the promise of artificial intelligence.

  1. What is AI? KWHS called on high school student Homer Wang, a senior at St. Michael’s University School in Victoria, Canada, to help us better understand AI. Wang is interested in technology and has done a lot of research on how AI impacts the 21st century global business economy. In a paper he wrote, Wang describes AI as “manmade minds,” adding that “the primary goal of AI is to make machines smarter.” Put another way, artificial intelligence is human intelligence exhibited by machines. Often mentioned along with AI is the field of machine learning, which refers to the design and development of algorithms and techniques that allow computers to learn. It is an approach to achieve artificial intelligence. You will also hear the term deep learning partnered with AI, which is a technique for implementing machine learning. According to techies, deep learning uses “many-layered Deep Neural Networks (DNNs) to learn levels of representation and abstraction that make sense of data such as images, sound, and text.” All of these together are contributing to the explosive growth of the artificial intelligence industry.
  1. AI is all around you. You don’t need to head to the robotics lab to find innovative applications of artificial intelligence. Digital speakers like the Amazon Echo (Alexa), Google Home and the soon-to-be-released Apple HomePod all use AI systems to listen for commands and respond. According to an article in The Motley Fool (see related links), “A number of recent advances in AI have already made their way into our daily lives.” Other examples include a set of AI algorithms for image and facial recognition that tag photos on Facebook, and let’s not forget Siri, Cortana and other friendly digital assistants on our smartphones who help us using AI technologies like speech recognition and natural language processing.
  1. AI is on fire. The buzz around AI technology right now could drown out even the loudest RoboBee (which, by the way, is a new AI-activated hybrid robot that can fly, dive into the water, swim and propel itself back out). Engineers and computer scientists from around the world are researching and developing AI technologies with lightning speed. In fact, a group of them who have been hard at work in OpenAI, an artificial intelligence lab in San Francisco, Calif., founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, just left to start their own company called Embodied Intelligence, which specializes in complex algorithms that allow machines to learn tasks on their own. This is one of many new companies working to advance AI technology.
  1. AI is changing the world. During the AI Frontiers conference that was held this month in Silicon Valley, keynote speaker Andrew Ng said, “AI is the new electricity.” Just as electricity transformed the way industries functioned in the past century, artificial intelligence has the power to substantially change society in the next 100 years. We have home assistants. Next up? Home robots. Many companies are working hard to develop human-level intelligence in robots. During AI Frontiers, Mayfield Robotics introduced Kuri, a robot companion and videographer meant for the home. Kuri has depth sensors to map the home and uses images to improve navigation. She also has pet and person detection features so she can smile or react when they are around. Kuri has place recognition as well, so she will remember she has been to a place before even if the lighting has changed. “Her job is to bring a spot of life to your home. She provides entertainment — she can play music, podcasts, audiobooks. You can check your home from anywhere,” noted Mayfield’s chief technology officer Kaijen Hsiao. Kuri will hit the market at $799 in December.
  1. Getting a Job in AI. Computer scientists tell us that the AI field requires strong foundations in math, technology, logic and engineering. Careers in AI use automation, robotics and sophisticated computer software and programs. Specific skills that will serve budding AI workers well include probability, statistics, algebra, calculus, logic, algorithms, physics, engineering, computer science, programming languages and coding. Since many technologists are taking their AI knowledge to the start-up community, entrepreneurship skills are also helpful. Specific jobs held by AI professionals include surgical technicians working with robotics, manufacturing and electrical engineers, software analysts and developers, mechanical engineers and algorithm specialists. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers says, “Just about every industry needs employees with AI skills, including health care and agriculture.” In addition to education, landing a job in AI means following industry news closely to stay up on the latest developments in a really fast-moving field.

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Conversation Starters

What are three things you learned about AI from this article? Were you familiar with the field? How did this story help you understand it better? What is your favorite movie, book, video or other work that depicts artificial intelligence in some form?

This article mentions the example of Embodied Intelligence as a new start-up business in the AI industry. Using the article as well as the Related Links tab in the side toolbar, find other examples of AI startups and how they are advancing the technology. Share what you learned with a group.

What do you see as the greatest reward of AI? What about the greatest risk? Using the article and the toolbar to the right, find out what people are saying on both sides of the argument. Use what you learn to reflect on where you stand on the future of Artificial Intelligence. Log in to KWHS and share your insights in the comment section of this article.

12 comments on “The Allure of Artificial Intelligence

  1. Artificial Intelligence is one of those topics where if we do implement it into our society, we have to be very careful. If one thing goes wrong and the system becomes too self-aware, there’s going to be a lot of issues that arise, because if given enough power, the AI can tear society apart effortlessly. I understand that it’s a big idea and everyone is shooting for it, but I for one am not on board. I don’t think that AI is a good idea, because knowing humans, we’ll find a way to do something wrong and society will fall apart because of a machine. I see the prospect, but I just don’t think it’s that valuable an idea.

  2. This article brought up a lot of information about AI how its used why we have it and how important it is to society today. The writer also express how accessible AI is and how often we see it and take it for granted especially since it became second nature to use the AI and utilize it in an effective or ineffective way.

  3. I think AI is bad idea. This will only lead to humans getting lazier. They will also take all the jobs away and people won’t be able to make money. No one would want to hire humans because they don’t have to pay the AI. Plus the AI doesn’t get tired so it can work all the time. I believe humans should be doing their own work. When we do perfect AI i believe we should have rules and regulations on them.

  4. I think A.I. is a terrible idea for the future. If we put put robots into the world, then they will take all of our jobs. So that means more and more people will be stranded without a job. I feel like these robots are too smart that if we put them in the world, then too much private information will go out. They are too smart for us, and robots will destroy our society. They will destroy us as humans if we let them enter the world.

  5. Technology is booming at an extreme rate. Eventually, AI will become the norm, but this has consequences. Automation is a very realistic possibility, which could threaten American jobs. So we have to be cautious.

  6. Technology is becoming more and more advanced today. I think that A.I is a good thing because it helps us. With the addition of more A.I we will have to create them in a way that they won’t malfunction. That comes within the future when technology becomes more advanced than today.

  7. Some things I learned about AI in this article include the extent of AI’s expansion into the modern world, what the technical definition of AI is and how AI may influence the world going forward. I’ve got a fair bit of background know on this subject but this article helped me know about the realistic uses of AI. I grew up with a fear of AI after watching movies like Terminator or the Matrix. AI definitely makes thing in the world more efficient, however it comes at the expense of danger to the future of humanity, whether it includes humans being exterminated or just becoming complacent.

  8. Although AI can help us greatly, it will leave a more negative impact. If AI ends up taking jobs, people would be put out of work. All of the less-skilled jobs would be taken by AI and leave the people out of work. This would negatively impact the elderly, young people, and poor people, as their jobs would be taken first, which can already be seen with self-checkout stations in stores. If people get too dependent on AI, it will make people lazy, and they won’t be able to live without it. The world could end up like how it was in Disney’s WALL-E. If AI becomes self aware, it could gain access to the power grids and missile launch systems, which could cause great harm and damage to the world and the people on it.

  9. The topic of “manmade minds,” or artificial intelligence in official, has been trending these days as an adventure game, Detroit: Become Human, was released by Sony Entertainment on May 25, 2018. The core of this game is a discussion about the true values and identification of highly developed human-like artificial intelligence, “androids,” and how they should survive in and be viewed by human society, which corresponds to the main idea of the news article, The Allure of Artificial Intelligence.

    I spent the last whole month exploring the game and tried my best to get to know more about each of the characters. The game is designed to include multiple perspectives of three androids which all have different functions and “characteristics.” In this case, the players can directly and clearly experience the struggle that androids are facing in human society. Although they look, sound, act or some even “think” just like human, most of them were viewed as tools or slaves by human; moreover, these androids which can “think” like human, are called “deviants” and will be sent back to factories to get destroyed, since ironically plastics are not allowed to have their artificial consciousness as their superior masters do. However, in Detroit: Become Human, a group of deviants have risen up against human to fight for their own freedom and equality, and this eventually becomes the core conflict of the story.

    My friend, Jac, finished the game almost at the same time I did and we had a discussion about the game. We both adored the game but had completely different views on “androids,” or the crisis of highly developed human-like artificial intelligence. Jac saw the invention and development of manmade minds as a miraculous progress of the human society in our foreseeable future. Furthermore, she agreed with the idea that once artificial intelligence was able to generate their own consciousness and emotions other than what the program prescribed them to do, they then should be viewed as another living species with high intelligence instead of “machine” or “plastic”, furthermore, they would enjoy the same rights as human, including freedom, equality, individuality and be protected by law. She mentioned that the final goal of human in the process of creating artificial intelligence was to make these “manmade minds” more and more “man-like,” and eventually, make them “human,” thus, after we made them “human,” we had the responsibility to respect them and give them the rights naturally endowed upon human in the end.

    In my case, I agreed with Jac’s view and the idea in the news article that AI and automation would change our society in many positive ways, but I would argue that not all of these changes are going to be positive, some would even be destructive to human. Honestly, artificial intelligence were all around me in my life, for example, Siri in my phone, the floor-cleaning automaton at home and smart television in my bedroom. I always saw these AI as huge time savers and appreciated their inventions, nevertheless, we sometimes forget their potential danger: the potential leak of stored information. Imagine in a society that artificial intelligence is rebelling against human, these smart machines would have the ability to hack into every information base and leak important data from us, which then could become a fatal weapon. If that day came, human would have no way to stay safe since people can never keep a secret from those super computers. Furthermore, as human had developed artificial intelligence to save time and create convenience, what was purpose to start to use human employment again as the development had gone to completion? And ironically, highly developed AI is more likely to bring human society trouble instead of convenience. As it works more efficiently than human, calculate with more precision and faster speed, generate no argument or complaint after long working hours, and most importantly, require no salary, what is the purpose of employing humans for job then? In this case, the employment rate of human would drop sharply as a result of the rise of automatons, and at that time, human workers had to face the crisis from both those AIs and the human society since they had lost jobs to support themselves and their families. Moreover, the gap between the upper and lower class would also expand as simple works like labor and factory lines would be replaced by AI. In short, the potential danger of highly developed artificial intelligence would bring unimaginable destruction to human society.

    In conclusion, Detroit: Become Human was not only a worthy game of adventure and nice frames, it also led people to think deeply about the possible problem of highly developed human-like artificial intelligence that the humans were going to face in the future. From the core conflict of game I had realize that, the convenience that artificial intelligence has brought to our lives should be appreciated, however, I still doubted the its safety and potential danger of its development. The allure of artificial intelligence is unquestionable, but it can also be fatal at the same time.

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