San Francisco – Artificial intelligence – or AI – is the science of programming machines or computers to reproduce human processes, like learning and decision making.
Recent technological advances – for example ‘intelligent’ algorithms which decide autonomously what actions to take to achieve their objective, have seen AI take great strides forward, creeping steadily into our daily lives.
Smartphones are getting smarter, cyber assistants can find information in the blink of an eye and autonomous vehicles could soon increase road safety, potentially eliminating the risk of human error.
AI offers the promise of a highly-efficient world in which robots take care of our sick, stock our fridges, plan our holidays, and do hazardous jobs humans should not or will not do.
Game playing is a crucial measure of AI progress – proving that a machine can execute certain ‘intellectual’ tasks better than humans.
Computer mastery of chess and more recently Go, the ultimate board game, have been hailed as moments in humanity’s quest to create smart machines.
In medicine, software can already diagnose illnesses including some cancers as efficiently as a real doctor.
But the issue of how to adapt workforces to cope with this ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ has economists and policy makers scratching their heads.
Millions of jobs could be threatened as robots become capable of nearly everything humans do.
There are concerns that if left unchecked, the development of super-intelligence could pose a threat to humanity, with computers out-smarting and out-manipulating humans.
Yet while robot surgeons and Terminator style military droids could soon make the leap from science fiction to reality, ‘super-intelligence’, where technology can match or exceed the flexible human brain – is still a way off.
Much more needs to be done to endow robots with social intelligence, enabling them to understand the subtleties of everyday decisions.