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The Near and Far Future of AI April 30, 2017

Posted by omarabed15 in Machine Learning.
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We all have a preconception that forms in our minds when we hear “AI”. Numerous pop culture movies (my favorite being “iRobot” with Will Smith) create a sensationalized idea of the role that AI will play in our future. However, I believe machine learning has a long way to go before we achieve full technological consciousness (although, I do believe it is somewhere on the distant horizon).

We are currently seeing the smooth and steady progression of AI in everyday applications. The rapid advances in smartphone technology over the last 10 years present a perfect use case for this technology. The immense amount of content created by billions of social media accounts gives humanistic AI a vast set of training data. In contrast to training off specific and tailored data sets, machine learning meant to imitate humanistic consciousness can use this broad data to learn and think like a real person. This, in my opinion, is the true value of the future of AI. Specialized applications will always be used by corporations to automate and improve operations. But at a consumer level, I think the real need will be for AI to satisfy a need for human interaction, rather than accomplish any specific or ‘useful’ task. Relationships between people are changing, as social media interactions alter the way we have in-person interactions. As people trade in-person interactions for online interactions, I think AI will be able to fill a social void for many people.

This thought definitely invokes ideas of the movie “Her”, but I don’t think that movie has sensationalized anything to any extremes. AOL chatbots have existed for over 15 years, and provided people a fun way of interacting online with a robotic “person”. Since then, AI has progressed to allow people to have online relationships with robotic personalities. Perhaps we are already living in the future depicted by “Her” (or are a few years away), but we simply don’t notice because we don’t see our lives sensationalized in a movie.

In order for AI to make use of the vast amounts of data online to simulate a human personality, I think the use of Neural Networks will play a prevalent part. If you want to train a machine to think and act like a person, give it a “brain” like a person’s, and train it using human data. And though large corporations have the resources to start us down this path (think Google), I think a fundamental limitation of AIs progress is the fact that its advances exist within the hands of large corporations.

We interact with a few large corporations online and create data for these corporations, but then that data is hoarded by the companies and used for their own purposes, perhaps to create AI algorithms that exploit the users through advertisements and such. However, the future of technology belongs to those entrepreneurs with ideas and intellect to accomplish amazing feats, but who perhaps don’t have the resources or funding of a large corporation. I think opening the AI realm to individual contributors would vastly speed up the development of AI. A good way of leveling the playing field, in my opinion, would be to open the public/non-sensitive data to the world through a series of APIs. If Google, Facebook, Twitter, and more would provide their private data to the world through open interfaces, users all over the world could produce advances in the AI field.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this is likely to happen by the decision of the data owners. The data on their users is far to valuable to give away for free. Perhaps governments could establish laws around opening data access to public consumers. Or maybe a third-party contributor will enter the playing field and find a way to provide these mass amounts of data to the public. Regardless of how it happens, I think the public is in a bit of danger if the future of AI resides in the hands of large corporations like Google and Facebook. In the end, we (the consumers) rely on the services provided by Google and Facebook, but we do not pay for these services. We are the source of the revenue stream for these companies, and that’s how users are viewed by most companies. If that is the case, AI will be utilized by these corporations to promote that relationship. Instead, putting this power in the hands of users, to benefit the “common man” is the major paradigm shift that needs to take place to push AI to the next level.

 

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