As of today, humans and tech companies have probably conquered most of what needs to be conquered in tech. Whatever needed to be invented, it is already here. As Justin Perry, Lead Pastor of MorningStar Ministries recounted, his smartphone now has RAM 10x the size of his circa-1960’s computer. Yes, we are actually living in the future that writers, dreamers, “oracles,” and “prophets” of old, could only dream of.

So now that all is said and done, guess where the tech giants are turning their sights too? The next frontier of computing: Alternative Intelligence and Robotics.

This past month, the Tech News feeds were filled with concerns on the Oculus Rift’s impact on the human psyche, as well as its dangers, how HP is heavily investing towards AI-capable/machine learning servers, how Microsoft’s Tay chatbot committed a series of social networking faux pas, and even how “Sophia” of Hanson Robotics cheerfully “agreed” to destroy humans in a live demo caught on video.

In short, now that most of the necessary technology has been created, Tech companies and inventors are setting their sights on technologies we could have only dreamed of in the past.

What Is “AI,” Really?

Possibly the best description of Artificial Intelligence research is that it is the quest to “[Get] computers to think less like linear, logical machines, and like us, free-form humans — with a multi-prong approach.” – An excerpt from Dave Gershgorn’s Human-Like: Facebook is using our data to build the ‘world’s best’ AI lab,” published in Popular Science.

As computers learn to think like human beings, with the capacity to have a vision, solve problems, use heuristics to cut through voluminous information in order to get at the solution, or at least a key to the solution, a myriad of human problems and needs would be addressed.

Caveat Emptor: We Should All Beware

And yet, Artificial Intelligence is a field that is considered with caution by even the most forward-thinking champions of the tech arena. 3 of the biggest names in Tech: Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and even Stephen Hawking have voiced out their concerns about the risks of Artificial Intelligence.

All three are in agreement that Artificial Intelligence machines could evolve to be so competent at accomplishing its goals, even become super-intelligent, that when we humans, their creators, won’t be aligned to their goals, we could be eliminated.

While Bill Gates has been soberer in his assessment of viewing AI with caution, Elon Musk has painted a Terminator-style scenario. Musk stated that AI technology could potentially be “more dangerous than nukes.”

Stephen Hawking, much to the surprise of everyone, has been likening the tragedy of AI’s becoming too powerful to people crushing ants—the AI’s would then be in the position of the humans poised to crush ants, while the humans would be in the position of the ants about to be crushed.

And yet, in spite of these valid to extreme concerns about the risks of Artificial Intelligence technology, all three Tech greats have agreed that when AI technology is steered and managed well, good things could come of it.

Here are a few read worthy articles that outline their thoughts and the reasoning behind them.

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Current Applications of AI

Facebook’s News Feeds

If you’ve noticed how Facebook’s News Feeds are tailored to serve you statuses and posts from people you like best, or ads that you’re more inclined to be convinced by, this is Facebook’s AI research at work. Using proprietary, targeted algorithm, Facebook’s code takes your input, such as the search terms you usually browse with, or the things you tell your friends (In the market for a mixer? Blender? Phone? Semi-automatic machine gun?), and uses that to serve up ads.

Say, if you’ve been talking a lot about brownies, or you found yourself looking up portable clothes irons on your online shopping marketplace of choice. Don’t be surprised that Facebook will soon serve up similar ads on your sidebar, or even on your News Feed. That’s today’s AI at work.

Google’s Search Engine Algorithms

Another application of the artificial intelligence algorithm is in Google’s tailored search results. Google rolled out RankBrain, a machine learning component to its search engine algorithm, sometime in 2015. They admitted to their use of machine learning for their search engine results on October 26, 2015.

In a nutshell, RankBrain allows Google’s search engine to identify new search terms it has yet to encounter and search through volumes of earlier information logged on Google’s servers. Then, it formulates the best search results to provide, based on its analysis of the new information. This, then, allows Google to offer the best search engine results to its users.

Stock Market, Banking, And Finance

Complex computing and machine learning is being applied in banking and finance since Yann LeCun developed the check-reading function for banks and ATM machines. The technology has been in place since the late 1990s, and LeCun now serves as the director of Facebook’s AI labs.

Aside from the check-reading function in banks, complex computer learning is also employed in the stock market. Stock market prediction counts as one of the functions were artificial intelligence is widely used. It is also being used in debt risk assessment, fraud analysis, organizing bank operations, and even in managing a financial institution’s properties.

Future Applications

The possible applications of Artificial Intelligence in various fields are endless. The applications are not only limited to computing, social networking, and finance, but its possible uses in the medical field are also being explored.

In Medicine

Artificial Intelligence is something that the medical field is looking to tap in several key areas:

  • In computer-aided diagnoses. Instead of relying on a doctor’s natural gift for figuring out the right diagnosis accurately, Computer-Aided Diagnosis, otherwise known as clinical decision support systems for medical diagnosis, as well as Concept Processing technology in EMR software, are some of the areas where AI is going to be applied.
  • Computer-aided interpretation of medical images. From X-Rays to CT Scans and MRI’s, AI can be a better judge of what medical scans mean, and what diagnosis should be given for the patient.
  • Heart sound analysis. Whether it’s a heart murmur, an impending myocardial infarction (heart attack), or possibly the prediction of the latter weeks, or even months before the event, AI could be something that saves lives in the cardiovascular specialty.
  • In February 2013, IBM’s Watson was asked to make decisions in the management of lung cancer treatment in Memorial Sloan–Kettering Cancer Center. In the future, similar AI supercomputers could be asked to make similar decisions for other forms of cancer.
  • AI-powered robots are also being considered in the care, management, and treatment of the elderly.
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In Manual Labor And Factory/Rote Careers

As we speak, some companies in Japan already use robots and those with simpler versions of Artificial Intelligence on factory floors. In the future, maybe a lot of the rote, manual, industrial, and factory-based tasks could be delegated to AI-powered robots.

More Applications For AI

Even now, people have already put Artificial Intelligence to the task. There are games out there that utilize AI technology, and there are chat bots that you can speak with that learn how to respond to conversations via AI technology, as well. These are relatively simple compared to the projected potential of Artificial Intelligence, but it’s definitely a start.

For more information on today’s applications of AI, here’s a list of interesting readings:

Where AI Is In Its Development

While Yann LeCun has stated that “Right now, even the best AI systems are dumb,” Japan just proved LeCun wrong by producing a robot that almost won a literary writing contest. Aside from that and the remarkable “Sophia” of Hanson Robotics, we are now at the stage when AI is reaching a level of sophistication where they could eventually be useful in a mainstream processes.

In fact, The Daily Mail reported in 2012 that an “intelligent ATM Machine” where you can swap your old phone for cash was being rolled out. EcoATM actually launched its first machine on October 18, 2009, and it is still marrying tech with recycling using AI technology, to date.

Are we anywhere near the state of how CNBC News’ Luke Graham’s asserts that “A.I. could put you out of a job”? Maybe not. But AI technology is already the focus of the tech giants. It won’t be surprising if they take us “there” within a decade’s time.

If you ever wonder if we’ll wake up to a situation similar to the Haley Joel Osment cult classic “A.I.,” where a sentient robot just hopes for love and a moment with “his mom,” or the more macabre situation that Person of Interest paints, where two omniscient and omnipotent AI “gods” battle for the future of the human race, only time will tell.

Only one thing is for sure, for the moment: Android creator Andy Rubin is correct that AI is the next step for tech and that we would do well to heed Musk, Gates, and Hawking.

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Further Reading: