Intelligent Design: The Truth About Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is changing everything from our cars to our coffee makers, but do humans have any reason to be concerned?
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Intelligent Design: The Truth About Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is changing everything from our cars to our coffee makers, but do humans have any reason to be concerned?
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THE BACKGROUND

It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but the impact artificial intelligence (AI) is having on our lives is real and growing by the second…er, nanosecond.

And we’re not just talking self-driving cars or robot coffee makers. (Mmm, coffee.) This advanced technology is everywhere and the only way to stop fearing it, is to learn more about it.

So, activate your brains Bullet readers — it’s time to get smart about AI.

GATHERING DATA

Before we go back to the future, let’s start by defining exactly what we’re talking about here:

The term “AI” has more than one meaning. Firstly, it refers to human-like intelligence demonstrated by computers or machines. Secondly, it describes the field of study dedicated to making the first part possible.

AI should not be confused (though it often is) with machine intelligence (MI) which is the specific branch of AI that’s focused on algorithms and a machine’s ability to analyze data and learn from it without being programmed.

The most popular subfield of MI is deep learning, an approach that relies on brain-like neural networks to learn and solve problems from large amounts of data. The more these neural networks learn, the smarter they become. (Our neurons are already hurting.)

BUT AI DOESN’T REALLY AFFECT ME, RIGHT?

Wrong.

Whether you realize it or not, AI technology is already a big part of your life and if you don’t believe us, we’ll prove it!

• Smartphones

You have one of these, right? You’re probably using it right now. Well, these pocket-sized obsessions devices are among the most ubiquitous form of AI in use todaywith their built-in virtual assistants (hi, Siri) and enhanced image recognition capabilities.

Some of the most popular smartphone apps, including your favourite ridesharingand geo-locating tools, are also using AI to make getting around town more intuitive.

And we can’t forget social media. From categorizing tweets in your feed to curating the ads you see on Facebook, AI plays a direct role in your everyday mobile experiences.

• Banking

Yup, the place you park your money is using AI to improve its services at basically all levels.

From 24/7 chatbots to answer customer service questions (say buh-bye to bankers’ hours) and fraud protection services that alert you to irregular account activity, the financial industry is implementing AI technology to improve your experience, enhance your investments and safeguard your hard-earned cash. (Now if they could just throw a little extra cash in our accounts that would be smart…)

• Music and Movies

If you’re one of the billions of people who use an online music service, AI is playing a big part in picking your tunes. Spotify’s hugely popular Discover Weekly feature is one of the best examples of AI-influenced music, with its sophisticated algorithm that analyzes personal song preferences together with billions of playlists created by other subscribers to formulate a tailored mix that’s (literally) music to your ears.

There’s also nothing chill about the extent to which Netflix is using AI to suggest your next favourite film. The streaming giant leverages AI on a massive scale to make recommendations based on its subscribers’ movie and TV preferences. Binge on that!

From email to video games to home security, there’s an endless list of ways AI is impacting our lives. Check out some more everyday examples here.

SHOULD WE BE WORRIED ABOUT AN UPRISING?

It really depends on who you ask.

In 2014, Tesla mogul Elon Musk struck a decidedly apocalyptic tone on AI calling it an existential threat that could spark a global arms race and cause World War III if not strictly regulated starting yesterday now. He’s since softened his outlook and rather than predicting our collective demise, he forecasts a future in which humans will become like “house cats” to our intellectually superior robot overlords (so that’s better, right?)

But don’t go building your bunker just yet.

Tech titans including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg and Google AI chief, John Giannandrea, have clapped back at that kind of fear-mongering saying advanced technologies will continue to benefit humanity — not destroy it — by increasing productivity, redistributing human labour to industries that need it and reducing the number of hours we need to work in a given day (hell to the yeah!).

And while AI may ultimately displace entire industries and professions (hint: this has happened before), research suggests it could be a boon for job creation in other sectors while simultaneously generating trillions in overall business value.

Still, universal limits on emerging technology are absolutely needed (ahem, China) and in the wake of some recent technology-driven disasters, governments are finally taking action by crafting bills and having long overdue debates about the real-life implications of AI.

HOW DOES CANADA FACTOR IN?

Our country may be famous for its frigid temperatures, but that hasn’t stopped the Great White North from emerging as an AI hotspot with companies like Google, Uber and Facebook all conducting important research within our borders.

In fact, the federal government has identified AI as a “key part” of Canada’s economic growth strategy and to prove it, earmarked $125 million of the 2017 federal budget for its Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy.

But that’s not all.

Montreal is on tap to host the G7 Multistakeholder Conference on Artificial Intelligence next month, the head of NASA wants Canada to build an AI robot for its proposed lunar space station and the University of Alberta now ranks third in the world for AI research behind Pennsylvania’s Carnegie Mellon University and Tsinghua University in China — a feat that comes one year after Google’s AI research firm, DeepMind Ltd, opened its first non-U.K. research hub in Edmonton.

Now if only all this technology could help bring home the Stanley Cup.


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