As 2016 advances, As 2016 advances, artificial intelligence (A.I.) is exploding with interest in what seems like all scientific fields. Digital giants like Google, Microsoft, and Apple are at every technological gathering discussing the development and the future of A.I. This technology, still in its infancy, is evolving faster than ever and is being adopted quickly into society, whether we like it or not.
Intelligent software and algorithms learn at a much faster rate than humans can and software is now being coded in a way that is not simply dumping massive amounts of data into the program, but creating software in which a computer can actually learn on its own, similar to our own learning habits — through trial and error. By playing endless rounds of games, watching hours of videos, and sorting through countless amounts of data, computers learn languages, identify objects, and make predictions at an alarmingly rapid rate.
The first wave of A.I. is already plugged into our connected world. Social media sites scan through our searches, likes, and posts, creating profiles of us to feed us appealing advertisements. Our personal devices recommend friends and anticipate what we are going to search for cued by only a couple of words. At times, the suggestions and predictions our gadgets give us are so on target, it can be a little scary. Do our digital agents know us better than we know ourselves?
Digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa are now increasingly sophisticated and high-tech. Apple is making big changes with their new iOS 10 update this fall and is opening up Siri to app developers for the very first time. Through 3rd party apps, Siri will soon be activated to assist in more tasks than ever before. Voice commands like paying a bill, calling an Uber, or looking up directions will soon be understood and carried out much more accurately.
For the medical fields, A.I. may be a key factor in future cures. Algorithms will be assisting in future technology that will predict cancer sooner, and will hopefully solve many medical mysteries using A.I. software’s non-stop pattern recognition and tireless learning.
Intelligent computers may benefit the scientific and medical realms, but is it possible to stop these agents from learning too much? Movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey and I, Robot allow for paranoid thoughts of our digital assistants becoming out of hand and ultimately spelling out our doom. Is it possible that famed futurist Ray Kurzweil’s term, “intelligent machines” eventually become capable of vetoing human judgement? At the current rate, that is exactly what can happen. Similarly to the way humankind outsmarted the Neanderthal, A.I. could eventually outsmart humankind. While A.I. is still in its beginning stages of development, researchers are looking into precautions that will protect and keep humans in control.
This concern for A.I. safety is what led Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, and Sam Altman, president of Y-Combinator, to fund and operate the billion-dollar, non-profit research company, Open A.I.. Musk has long called artificial intelligence our “biggest existential threat” and this nonprofit is his way of safeguarding our future from that peril. The institution’s main purpose is making A.I. research, learning, and patents freely available to any programmer that wants to take part in Deep Learning. Most importantly, it is to create a positive influence that benefits humanity by making it open and avA.I.lable to share technological advances. As A.I. slowly moves towards human-level thought processes and capabilities, this organization is building a platform for future A.I. exploration to create the best possible outcome. Open A.I. is seeking to put the power of Deep Learning into the hands of everyone that is interested in learning it, for free. Being non-profit, with no shareholder obligations, it is solely used for the betterment and bringing value to society. As with any new venture, there are skeptics to this free, machine-learning research institution. Speculators worry about those who seek to use their Open A.I. instructed robots for harm. Open A.I. founders believe, however, that those using this technology for good will significantly overshadow those using it for harm. The alternative to all the brilliant minds behind Open A.I. working for free sharing, would be billion-dollar corporations, like Google and Facebook, monopolizing the super-intelligence without sharing their advancements. Elon Musk and Open A.I. researchers believe that making this information free and readily available will help control this advanced technology, before it becomes out of control. Fingers crossed.