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What is Artificial Intelligence & How is it Taking Over?

All things technology seem to be at the forefront of conversations and debates these days. And with the recent developments of NFTs and the metaverse, it’s no surprise that people are wanting to know more about the technologies they are based upon. 

Advancements in technology over the last decade have facilitated tremendous growth in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. 

Whilst the media paints a scaremongering picture of a sci-fi fantasy where AI will have robots taking over our lives and running the world, the current trends and developments with AI systems and machinery have seen them slowly incorporated into our everyday lives and workplace processes.

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

By definition, artificial intelligence (AI) is the use of a computer or machinery to perform tasks commonly associated with human intelligence. Specific applications of AI include expert systems, natural language processing, speech recognition and machine vision.

There are four types of artificial intelligence...

1. Reactive Machines - aka pre-programmed AI

Reactive AI does as the name suggests; reacts to existing conditions. These types of machines are programmed to produce a predictable output based on the input it receives.

Users will get the exact same response to identical situations every time. In AI reactive machinery there will never be a variance in action when the input stays the same. They also aren’t able to learn or remember actions of the past or predict for the future.

A simple 'if, then' condition forms the basis of reactive AI.

Examples of reactive machinery: Spam filters and Netflix recommendations.

2. Limited Memory - aka slow learning AI

Limited memory AI is characterised by its ability to absorb learning data and use it to improve over time based on its experience, this is similar to the way the human brain’s neurons connect and remember processes and results. 

Limited memory AI is widely used today and is continually being updated and perfected.

Example of limited memory AI: Self-driving cars, such as Tesla, use the data they were trained and programmed on to understand how to operate. They can also interpret data it observes, such as a car’s speed and direction, to read its environment and adjust its own speed when necessary. 

Although the reaction time in self-driving cars has been significantly improved with limited memory AI compared to human intelligence, the systems cannot yet remember past experiences and build their intelligence on them like humans can.

3. Theory of Mind - aka empathetic AI

We’re stepping into futuristic territory with theory of mind, since it is yet to be properly achieved. 

In psychology, the theory of mind is an important social-cognitive skill, involving the ability to think about the mental state of yourself and others. It encompasses the ability to understand that people in the world can have thoughts and emotions that affect their own behaviour.

One of the biggest hurdles creators and engineers have faced in achieving theory of mind AI is that the robot would have to rapidly shift behaviour based on reactive emotions to mimic how naturally this process happens in human communication. This is a crucial part of human interaction and how we form relationships. 

For theory of mind AI systems to exist in our society, they will need to be able to understand that each human has different thoughts, feelings, and expectations of how they wish to be treated, with the systems being able to adjust their behaviour accordingly.

Example: Hanson Robotics are the first to create a humanoid robot - Sophia. The robot was first activated in 2016 and has since undergone several additional AI features, becoming the biggest advancement in AI technology to date.

4. Self-awareness - aka basically human AI! 

Self-aware AI is far from being achieved, but it is the ultimate goal for AI technology.

At present, this kind of AI exists only in the minds of AI engineers. But the response to a self aware AI humanoid bot instils immense amounts of both hope and fear into society. 

Creating a self-aware intelligence that goes beyond the average human intelligence simultaneously creates an independent intelligence for the humanoid. 

To ensure the outcome does not result in negative or rebellious behaviours, it is likely that those who create it will have to negotiate terms with them. 

How does AI work?

AI systems are extremely complex, they work with extremely large sets of data with highly intelligent processing algorithms that enable them to learn from the patterns and sequences in the data they analyse. 

Here are some of the key features of AI technology:

  • AI performs frequent, high-volume, computerised tasks reliably and without error or fatigue. As a computer system AI never needs a break, enabling it to run through hundreds of thousands of tasks quickly and efficiently. The system can learn a lot of information at once, unlike using humans for the job role the tasks will be completed quicker and more accurately.
  • Adds intelligence to existing products and services. Automation, conversational platforms, bots and smart machines can be combined with large amounts of data to improve many existing technologies such as home security systems. 
  • AI technologies are built to adapt through progressive learning algorithms, letting the data do the programming. The systems are able to find structure and regularities in data so that algorithms can acquire and remember skills. 
  • AI achieves incredible accuracy as a result of deep learning. Products like Alexa and Google keep getting more accurate the more you use them. 
  • AI gets the most out of data since the algorithm is self-learning, the data itself becomes an asset. If you have the best data in a competitive industry, even if everyone is applying similar techniques, the best data will win.

The main goal of AI technology is to build computer systems and machinery that is capable of imitating human behaviours and interactions, using human-like thinking processes to solve complex issues.

Will AI change my everyday life?

It is inevitable that advancements in technology will push AI to a place where it can cause considerable change in various areas of society. 

Whether we are aware of it or not, we are already seeing and using AI systems in our everyday lives. The AI practises we are seeing today aren’t quite the lifelike robots you might be envisioning. Instead they’re online chat bots, social media sites, smart cars and small robotic delivery vehicles.

AI in online shopping and advertising 

Ever wondered how your phone or laptop knows what you like and provides you with recommendations for things you would usually buy or have searched elsewhere? 

AI is widely used to provide personalised recommendations, these are usually based on the users previous searches, purchases and other online behaviour. AI is hugely important in commerce for optimising products, planning inventory and managing logistics.

On online shopping sites, virtual assistants or chat bots answering questions, providing recommendations and helping organise daily routines have become ever-present.

Web search

Search engines, like Google, regularly analyse data provided by users to provide relevant search results based on past activity as well as location.

Video games pioneered AI

As one of the earliest adopters of AI, the gaming industry, has seen the most change with AI. 

Open world games have become much more complex, with hundreds of characters and multiple intertwined narratives. 

Gaming developers are working to build systems capable of generating intelligent, reactive and creative characters, with the ultimate goal of having bot characters that users can interact with. 

AI in Smart homes

Smart voice assistants can be used in smart homes to control all of your smart home devices, for example turning music on, changing the channel, turning the volume up, turning the lights off. For example, smart thermostats learn from our behaviour to save energy and adjust the temperature to your preferences. 

Self-driving cars use AI

Often referred to as autonomous or driverless cars, self-driving cars are vehicles that use a combination of sensors, cameras, radar and AI to travel between destinations without a human operator. 

While self-driving vehicles are a relatively new AI invention, many car manufacturers are already implementing AI safety functions (particularly Tesla), such as automated sensors that detect possible accidents, lane movements, and traffic ahead.

Navigation is also largely powered by AI. In navigation AI evaluates real-time traffic and weather conditions, providing the optimum route guidance that will help the driver to avoid traffic, and other road hazards. All data is real-time, meaning the AI technology has to process the data and produce a quick reaction for drivers.

AI in social media platforms

AI plays a key role in the running of the social media platforms you use every day. It is used across all social media platforms, and within each social post an AI algorithm or a machine learning system is being used to regulate how the content you create and the ads you buy are placed in front of other posts.

Let us give you an idea of how each social media platform uses AI:

  • Facebook uses advanced machine learning to do practically everything, from providing content to recognising your face in photos, as well as targeting users with advertising specific to their online behaviours. 
  • Instagram uses AI to identify visuals.
  • LinkedIn uses AI for job recommendations, suggestions of people you may want to connect with, push notifications for specific posts you may be interested in.
  • Snapchat uses AI technology to track your features, providing multiple filters moving with your face in real-time, as well as the use of your bitmoji in ‘bitmoji stories’.

How artificial intelligence will change the future 

Although no-one can predict exactly how technology will evolve, or how AI will shape our future, we can have a pretty good picture of how it is going to be for at least the next few generations. 

This isn’t to say AI technology advancements won’t make any drastic changes to some parts of our lives. The emerging technologies available currently have already, and will continue to replace old job roles in certain industries where AI technology will be more efficient and cost effective for companies. 

One of the most pressing questions over recent months has been about what AI will mean for the future of various industries...

Will my job be taken over by AI?

Recent advancements in AI have encouraged people to become fearful for the loss of their job, with media outlets scaring them into thinking it will be taken over by robots or AI machinery. 

The future of AI is unpredictable, no one knows what it will bring for industries or businesses worldwide, but what we do know is that any further advancements in AI will drastically change our future. 

Thus far, we have coped with the minor changes to our daily lives from AI inventions, in fact - our daily lives have been improved thanks to AI. But as technology becomes more advanced, beginning to imitate human behaviours and critical thinking, the worry of job displacement becomes more real.

“[AI] is going to change the world more than anything in the history of mankind. More than electricity.”— AI oracle and venture capitalist Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, 2018

A report by the World Economic Forum recently found that by 2025 robots, automation and AI will replace up to 85 million jobs globally. In the same report however, they have stated that AI will help to create 58 million new AI jobs by the end of 2022!

Despite the predicted creation of new jobs within AI, the report forecasts a large amount of job losses in other industries - check out 12 jobs that AI will likely replace, and the 12 jobs that AI should not and cannot replace.

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