AI, are you a watcher or a skeptic?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly being used to aid humans in many scenarios and everyday tasks or challenges. From health and welfare to leading military systems AI is already being seen by designers and developers, as futuristic technologies which are available today. But what is AI technology? What can it do? What can it do for humans now and in the future? This blog explores the potential of AI through the lens of a watcher and a sceptic, it may be interesting as a reader to note which way you foresee your involvement in AI technology or just to gain a better understanding of it.

Getty Images 2018

What is AI?

Accenture defines Artificial Intelligence as a collection of advanced technologies that allow machines to sense, comprehend, act and learn. (Accentrue LLP, 2019)

The emphasis here, for some, is on act and learn, the fact that AI machines can learn from human interactions to craft a better way to serve human needs. The adoptions of new process and adaptions to a better process by AI,  which are usually done in real-time, could be why a lot of the machines are known as ‘smart machines’, machines with the ability to start off from human ingenuity whilst adding machine based efficiency and accuracy.

What can AI do now and in the future?

The questions for some AI watchers and certainly many more AI sceptics is are we allowing AI to take over human roles and is the instigation of AI being actioned too soon and without examining the fuller picture? Dr Safavi, a developer and watcher of AI for Accenture Global Health, asserts that we may actually be taking a too narrow view of the potential of AI,

“Until now, many business leaders have taken too narrow a view of AI. To maximise the potential of AI and be digital leaders, healthcare organisations must re-imagined and reinvent their processes from scratch—and create self-adapting, self-optimising “living processes” that use machine learning algorithms and real-time data to continuously improve. Machines themselves will become agents of process change, unlocking new roles and new ways for humans and machines to work together”. (Accentrue LLP, 2019)

Aside from Dr Safavi’s comments many watchers and developers of AI system still don’t foresee a current or future trend which sees humans being cut ‘out-of-the-loop’ completely. Instead the future, as told by AI developers and trend watchers, is that AI aims to complement humans’ actions/interactions either because the technology is not yet intelligent enough to take over human control completely, or that humans are able to offer a more considered holistic and autonomous response to any given situation and thereby using AI as commander and master.

The area of contention is in the introduction of the use of AI algorithms covertly. One example of this is applications of AI algorithms in fund awards or finance. Virginia Eubanks, associate professor of political science at SUNY, looks at AI algorithms as a way to stay neutral when distributing correct and ethical welfare funding. Some (watchers) reaction to the use of AI algorithms for this purpose is it is the only way the process could be neutral and the impartiality could only come from a smart machine. Some sceptics may state that in cases such as this, could the AI be initially framed as providing more accuracy but actually, the data is initiated from humans who control data input and devise algorithms. Watchers and sceptic’s both offer a warning to be wary that AI should be seen as unbiased or neutral but we still need to consider the human interaction and interpretation of the data.

It is commonly understood that most AI technology requires a first large amount of low-level human response, either programming or data input. Thereby this brings automation and autonomous behaviours in to question. There have been instances of intelligent apps which are started, monitored and delivered by humans but styled and wrapped as an autonomous AI system. An intelligent smart machine can somehow sound more progressive and futuristic to some consumers. Astra Taylor, writer and documentarian, questions what exactly is AI autonomy? (Schwab, 2019). Taylor goes on to describe a scenario in a café when a customer asked how the intelligent app knew his meal was ready, the counter assistant stated “simple, I just texted you to say it was ready through the app”. (Schwab, 2019)

Trends 2019 – future…

If you have ever invoked an interactive ‘virtual assistant’ aka Amazon’s ‘Alexa’ or Apple’s version  ‘Siri’, then you will understand that mobile and laptop keyboards are void, as the systems work purely on voice commands of the user. Virtual assistants combined with echo speakers produce digital responses to users verbal questions, these command results are then stored by the device and allows it to build up a working picture of the user’s needs, favourite activities, special songs, special dates etc… the devices are literally your digital personal assistant for life. More than voice commands the virtual assistants have moved on to set and reset the user’s home environment, they can set ideal temperature, record favourite TV shows, set cookers and lights on. All this is controlled through either voice commands from a distance, or set locally using timers.

The next 2019 trend is deep machine learning, this term refers to the use of network hierarchy which mimics neural networks to ultimately gain recognition of external words or pictures from short abstract parts. Deep learning refers to the depth of network processing through layers of algorithms devised to translate and intuitively understand pictures and words and relay this back to humans.

The next big AI trend for 2019, according to the Irish Times and MIT involves the film The Minority Report. Like it or loathe it our personal data is used readily by many commercial companies and marketers. Using the personal data AI driven personalised marketing is on its way for 2019. Supermarkets are said to ditch the price tags in favour of digital smart displays which will guide you personally through the store according to your own personal shopping list. (Bonan, 2019) The minority report experience will also govern your everyday retail experience, plugged with facial recognition and reading your data users could find digital adverts in shopping malls featuring apt products based on your age, likes and dislikes, personal shopping habits and brand linked products based on your buying history.

Finally the next biggest 2019 use of AI is security and surveillance. Japanese designed deep learning algorithm entitled AI Guard man will be armed with learning about suspicious behaviours in shoppers, they will also be able to view these behaviours recognise them and alert waiting electronic device cameras to follow and track the person, whilst alerting staff. This type of intelligence can also be placed on large crowds, which will direct drones on specific people to record data and alert the police/security to recorded data in real-time.

Why does AI matter?

Whether you are a sceptic or a watcher, AI and a so-called brave new world is coming ready or not. But why does it matter, and why do we need it? Whatever you believe the common message out of the AI industry is that AI machines are not about to replace humans. The main role of creating intelligent self-driven machines is to analyse data and information in new and different ways to humans, taking on a different and alternative line of thinking for real-world problems. Many AI developers believe they are designing a new wave of relationships between machines and humans and creating partnerships to fight common human problems.  AI plans for the future is set to breakdown real-world barriers such as language translations and politics, to give humans a new vision of a problem or issue, to improve analytics and data sourcing to offer a richer picture.

Notwithstanding the purpose and proposals for AI, it is also important to understand AI will not solve every world problem in minutes. As with all machines AI has its limits, the main limit is just like humans AI only learns from what it is given, the major downfall with any AI system starts from the fallible human instigation of the data and the upkeep and translation of the data.

 And finally…

The main concept to understand, at this stage, for AI (domestic use) is that computers or machines are able to support our human needs, they are able to give humans information and extremely accurate data which is clearly understood and trusted.  Domestic users will be able to use data and programme devices without being an expert in the field. AI will allow the processing power and analytics with a more human facing interaction.

On a larger ‘big data’ business and commerce level, the time to analyse big data and compute this will be decreased allowing business to use the data in reasonable time to allow the facts to work more pragmatically for them and their customers. The biggest difference for the future is in healthcare, a real human weakness is our health and conditioning of that health. AI is set to analyse large data and offer clinical staff the ability to make better decisions for health and recuperation of their patients. In the home robots and assistive devices will become part of a patient’s rehabilitation or even keep our loved ones alive and well.

However we interact with AI, either now or in the future, for leisure, business or learning it seems if the zeitgeist are correct we are seemingly destined to join it in to our daily lives very soon. Whether a watcher or skeptic AI is current and presently used data informs us that we will use some form of AI in the next five years. How we interact and how much we interact with AI is still entirely down to the individual users, so it’s over to you…







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