Artificial Intelligence, As Artificial As We Think?

Mobile technological innovations such as Siri, the iPhone's digital assistant, Google's latest Google Home product, or, Alexa, the smart home hub introduced by Amazon, are, to most people, the limits of today's Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Mobile technological innovations such as Siri, the iPhone's digital assistant, Google's latest Google Home product, or, Alexa, the smart home hub introduced by Amazon, are, to most people, the limits of today's Artificial Intelligence (AI).

These technologies have irrevocably transformed our day-to-day living. They are now entrenched in most aspects of our personal and professional lives.

Electronic calendars prevent us from missing important appointments; fitness trackers can effortlessly measure our steps and workout goals; Skype translators can break down language barriers; and efforts to introduce self-driving vehicles incrementally are making waves in the automotive industry, changing the way we drive forever.

Today's hype around AI is now stronger than ever. For the first time though, there is now capital backing up this hype. According to CB Insights, in 2016 global funding for AI start-ups was $5bn, nearly nine times higher than in 2012, with the business community collectively having woken up, smelt the coffee and paying attention.

Having transcended merely being the talk of the town in the tech industry, today's advances in artificial intelligence have gone beyond what many would have thought possible. For example, the algorithms of the world's largest social media site, Facebook, can now track and tailor your entire internet browsing history, purchasing interests and commercial activity in less time than it takes a human being to blink, much to the delight of advertising agencies around the world.

Breaking down silos

The founding purpose of this technology and the potential it has to allow organisations around the world to integrate it into their businesses are now closer than ever before, propelling a multitude of sectors forwards.

Ground-breaking innovations are already having a positive impact on both businesses' bottom line and productivity levels. From manufacturers to white-collar workers, it is irreversibly changing business models as new services and ways of working continue to emerge.

Machine-learning AI for example promises to automate many mundane, repetitive tasks, not necessarily promising to do them better, but faster and eventually, much, much cheaper.

There are still areas for improvement of course. The automation of customer service is categorically different from any other labour-saving technological advance, to which the human race has always adapted. Our very own Sixth Sense of Retail report that surveyed 2,000 consumers UK-wide revealed key statistics that stressed the need for a balance between humans and technology, for customer-service heavy industries such as retail to thrive.

Power and responsibility go hand in hand

Governments and parliaments around the world confess to possessing very little knowledge or understanding of the tenets and wide-ranging capacity of this technology. It would not be a stretch to class this as concerning, particularly given the importance that future generations are placing on the benefits and role that this technology will play in the society of tomorrow.

When drawing comparisons between human intelligence, and that pertaining to machines, the latter is still very much in its infancy - perhaps akin to babies acquiring an understanding of shapes, colours and numbers in their formative years. Aside from these foundational concepts however, babies are also slowly able to differentiate between good and bad, right and wrong. This development of AI rests in the hands of the tech industry to develop and nurture machine intelligence with due responsibility and care.

Despite this, the human brain remains the most powerful super-computer on the planet. It created AI, initially hard-wired it to do our bidding and attempted to contain within machines the principles of learning, logical reasoning, problem solving, perception and a basic understanding of the rules and nuances of language. Our brains can perform all these tasks - and more - with just a fraction of a typical computer's resources. Although the question today is, has modern AI technology crossed this bridge?

In an industry that is largely unregulated, the public-at-large are very much outsiders looking inwardly at highly technical and intricate practices that are beyond the realms of understanding for the overwhelming majority of the global population.

It is about time that we start acknowledging that this intelligence is not quite so artificial anymore.


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