Artificial intelligence; friend or foe?

Imagine technology that could train a webcam on users while they are watching a political debate in the audience. Tracking their smiles, frowns and angry gesticulating, in order to measure their levels of agreement, confusion, horror or amusement and comparing their reactions to others.

This technology already exists. Coca-Cola and Unilever are just two companies using Affectiva’s Affdex technology to measure people’s responses to marketing and media. Other possible uses include video games and films which could adapt to a user’s emotional experience, or the user’s emotional state, such as enjoyment or fear.

But is developing Artificial Intelligence or AI something we should be concerned about?

What is AI?

According to John McCarthy, writing at Stanford University “AI is the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs.” He also explains intelligence as “the computational part of the ability to achieve goals in the world. Varying kinds and degrees of intelligence occur in people, animals and some machines.”

Is AI a bad thing?

George Bernard Shaw said that ‘Progress is impossible without change.’ One could argue that AI is both progress and change, and we should embrace it.

However, it seems some people think AI really is something to worry about. And those people include Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Elon Musk so we’re talking prominent people with ‘real intelligence’.

Bill Gates is the latest prominent figure from the technology industry to express concern. During his latest Ask Me Anything (AMA) interview on the Reddit networking site he wrote, “I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super-intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well…A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”

Got that? Let’s look at few more examples that show AI in a more positive light.

AI could help to put a stop to deforestation

Orbital Insight, founded by former Google and NASA robotics and artificial intelligence expert James Crawford, plans to collect satellite imagery of tropical forests to track changes over time. “The company will set its machine vision algorithms loose on the images to detect small alterations in the landscape that humans might miss but that could indicate illegal logging.  If …spotted before much logging has actually been done, activists and governments stand a much better chance of preventing more damage.” Wired

Fancy some WiFi powered Robot surgery?

If you’re looking for real robots, according to the Guardian, Google has struck a deal with the healthcare company Johnson & Johnson to develop surgical robots that use artificial intelligence.

“Google’s life sciences division will work with Johnson & Johnson’s medical device company, Ethicon, to create a robotics-assisted surgical platform to help doctors in the operating theatre. The robots will aid surgeons in minimally invasive operations, giving operators greater control and accuracy than is possible by hand, minimising trauma and damage to the patient. Some systems allow surgeons to remotely control devices inside the patient’s body to minimise entry wounds and reduce blood loss and scarring.”

AI, WiFi and the Internet of Everything

As we all read more and more about the Internet of Everything, and find out more about how it’s going to change our world, it becomes more and more clear just how vital the right infrastructure and the right WiFi is going to be – playing a really central part.

AI will also become a very real requirement in this future world. We just won’t be able to process the amount of data, that our Internet enabled objects can produce, without it.

“We need to improve the speed and accuracy of big data analysis in order for IoT to live up to its promise. If we don’t, the consequences could be disastrous and could range from the annoying – like home appliances that don’t work together as advertised – to the life-threatening – pacemakers malfunctioning or hundred car pileups.” Wired

AI is moving forward in leaps and bounds. Behind the scenes groups such as Vicarious, with backers including Mark Zuckerberg, Vinod Khosla and Ashton Kutcher say they are “building a unified algorithmic architecture to achieve human-level intelligence in vision, language, and motor control. Currently, we are focused on visual perception problems, like recognition, segmentation, and scene parsing. We are interested in general solutions that work well across multiple sensory domains and tasks.”

I’m not worried just yet. It seems that if I want my house to tell my kettle to get a boil on as I’m on my way home I’m going to need to embrace AI.