artificial intelligence (n): the ability of a digital computer to perform human tasks
The star of this fragrance commercial isn’t a celebrity. In fact, he’s not even a model. Stanford grad student Alexandre Robicquet is an AI researcher who works with Google X founder Sebastian Thrun.
There are many reasons as to why Robicquet was picked for the commercial, but his role as an AI scientist points to a significant cultural and technological change in the contemporary world. Mainstream media has made artificial intelligence look sexy, and the possibilities of robotic automation are limitless.
But AI isn’t breaking news. In fact, its earliest developments date to 1956, when Dartmouth professor John McCarthy proposed a summer research project to investigate the ways that machines could simulate learning. Soon after, AI labs sprung up at MIT and Stanford, where experiments involving chess, robotics, and communication were conducted.
More recently, AI hardware has become exponentially more powerful. Google and its parent company Alphabet have reportedly spent over $500 million in AI purchases, while Amazon continues to drive its inventory of AI technology to recommend products to customers and relocate items around around its fulfillment centers. Apple hopes to use AI to recognize handwriting, extend its products’ battery life, and recognize text embedded in PDF files.
A study released by Conversica, an AI software platform, reports that only 1 in 5 people believe that AI can ruin their careers. A future with AI, unfortunately, comes at the expense of millions of domestic workers in the manufacturing, banking, and transportation industries.
For one, machine translation systems make human translators obsolete. Under automated financial services, banks would no longer need to hire tellers if ATMs could create new accounts and issue loans. As AI becomes acceptable for everyday travel, drivers at electronic taxi companies like Uber and Lyft may soon find themselves out of work.
These shortcomings, however, mean little when compared to the long-term practicality of AI in the world economy. The financial applications of AI are simply astounding: Algorithmic trading can seamlessly use complex AI systems to make trading decisions at lightning-fast speeds. Although these systems are generally used by large institutional investors, the millions of trades made daily by AI machines triumph over manual trading by human investors.
At home, several financial products and software can use AI to aid people in monitoring their spending habits. AI apps analyze monthly income and current balances and can then make their own decisions to transfer money to saving accounts. So-called “robo-advisors” provide financial advice and portfolio management to humans while adjusting to real-time changes in the financial market.
Most importantly, AI has amazing potential in the hospital. Tasks that can very soon be performed by artificial intelligence include heart sound analysis, treatment plan design, drug creation, and robot assistance for the elderly. In the midst of more affordable health care and more experienced medical professionals, artificial intelligence can use virtual avatars in place of patients for hands-on clinical training.
Why Stop Progress?
Last Friday, Russian president Vladimir Putin released a disconcerting statement on the power of AI, arguing that whoever becomes the leader in artificial intelligence will be crowned the “ruler of the free world”. Opponents to AI must consider that artificial intelligence is still in the incubation phase, yet its potential for technological and cultural growth is astronomical.
AI researchers suggest that it’ll take more than a hundred years for AI to significantly impact our day-to-day lives. As we intricately emerge into a computer-programmed world, we must think optimistically on the sustainable, lasting effects of automation and rely less on the surreal, dramatized depictions of artificial intelligence in world media.