Artificial intelligence: Killer robots or intelligent partners?

We are in the middle of a tidal wave of interest, development, hype and fear toward artificial intelligence. How do we make sense of it all?

We are in the middle of a tidal wave of interest, development, hype and fear toward Artificial Intelligence (AI).  

On one side, we are hearing about the emergence of AI and machine learning as powerful tools for predictive analysis, information synthesis, language understanding and image recognition, while also seeing AI systems for self-driving cars and recommendation systems that can anticipate our tastes and needs before we do.

On the other side, we have a growing set of respected thinkers saying that we have to be exceedingly vigilant about the growth of AI because super intelligent thinking machines will likely develop homicidal contempt for us that will lead to our extinction.

Intermixed with these beliefs are people saying that AI is simply impossible because machines will never be able to think the same way humans do. Meanwhile, very well-funded companies are claiming that they are able to provide AI solutions for your business today.

Oh yeah, and I forgot – some espouse that if AI systems don’t kill us, they are certainly going to take away all of our jobs and leave us to starve in the street.

I aim to cut through the noise and get to the bottom of what AI is, what it can do for you and whether you really have to worry about it putting you out of work or killing you in your sleep.  

Many of us have to make real and impactful decisions about how intelligent machines can be used to help our own businesses right now. We need to know what these systems really do, how to make them work for us and which approaches make sense for today as opposed to which ones we need to plan for as we look towards tomorrow.

I will try to be as colloquial as possible. My goal is to give you the tools you can use to make sense of AI on your own. I want to arm you with what you need to know for your next conversation with a vendor who is pitching the next machine learning solution, or so you can explain to your peers and/or boss how to cut through the latest hype around the “next big thing” in the news.

With that in mind, let me start with a few statements about my beliefs.  

  • First, I believe that AI will make it possible for us to create systems that are not only as intelligent as we are but, in the end, far more intelligent and without many of our inherent reasoning biases.

  • Second, I believe that we now have models of reasoning that are providing us with powerful functionality being used in the workplace today.

  • Third, I believe that intelligent machines are the only way we are going to be able to make actual use of the data that is growing around us (yes, big data), in that they will be able to analyze, interpret and communicate the meaning behind data at a scale that is not possible on our own.

  • And finally, I do not believe that super intelligent machines are an existential threat to humanity, but I do believe that they are going to force some of us to develop new skill sets. This occurs with any technological advance. However, in the end we will have greater production with less human capital, allowing us to spend less time working to survive and more time on actualizing ourselves as humans. The result of humanizing the machine will be the further humanization of us as well.

I will also look at the extremely powerful AI systems being used in our lives already and show how emerging technologies can vastly improve our work today and tomorrow.

To that end, I want to start with a simple question for my next posting: What is AI?

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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