AI developers have already created machines that can beat humans at games such as chess, Go, and Jeopardy. Teams have created programs to support search engines such as Google, facial and handwriting recognition that help in solving crimes, and language translations. The latter you may notice on websites that offer you a choice of languages. You can get an online translator to turn an email from say German into English. Many of these applications have moved beyond literal translations to more nuanced idiom.
IBM Watson now provides cancer research assistance for doctors. In a recent test, it came up with 90% of the treatments recommended by a panel of cancer doctors. It also came up with 30% of viable treatment options that the doctors missed because of the vast amount of research data available. After all, the computer is able to crunch through more data than any individual or small group can humanly manage.
In fact, AI is coming to a home near you in the form of digital personal assistants that can handle routine tasks for you like your own personal helper. Amazon, Alexa, Apple Siri and others are competing to get their devices into your home to provide you conveniences. They’ve even provided these applications with primitive senses of humor to keep you amused. Even wide-screen TV manufacturers are getting in on this rush. By the way, they say they don’t collect your personal information from these machines, but their AI capability makes that possible.
Perhaps you’ve noticed how persistent robo-calls have become. Now that the programs connected to these automated callers can do deep data mining into your background, they can tailor their pitches to your unique needs, whether you need them or not. Oh, such a convenience. And, guess what, they can mine data from all of your credit purchases, search engine usage, and other electronically available information.
Now, it’s not all bad. While you’re less likely to reach a human you can understand when you call customer service, you’re increasingly likely to reach an AI with improved speech recognition and a broader range of answers than what you would have noticed even a few years ago. Who knows, you might even get the answer you need before frustration causes you to hang up.
Maybe you’re into virtual reality games. If so, AI is enriching your experience. Google introduced their Google Glass a while back to provide you a virtual experience in connecting to your mobile devices.
Right around the corner will be self-driving vehicles. Already, we have computer aided functions for cruise control, assisted braking, and self-parking. Tesla, Uber, and Google are pushing to develop the safety features that would allow you to call up a self-driving cab that would take you where you want in a manner not too different from riding an elevator. In fact, the U.S. Coast Guard is looking into self-driving ships to patrol the coastline and for search and rescue operations.
All of the above available applications are what we might call narrow AI, specific applications of computers to perform mental tasks. They focus on solving a limited number of problems. Imagine what could be available when someone cracks broader AI that would allow a machine to perform even more complex tasks.