Well folks, it looks like we’re here. The automated, un-regulated and hyperconnected future is well and truly upon us. Through our devices, we have an unprecedented level of access to each other’s lives and the world at large that would have been unimaginable just a few decades ago.
In fact, it can sometimes feel uncanny how effortlessly our forays into the virtual realm result in perfect, personally relevant results. Almost as if there was an intelligent being floating between all of our devices, getting to know and understand us through our constant interactions with it. But that’s absurd, isn’t it? Some sort of little person living in our smartphones, smart TVs, smart fridges? Like an Artificial Intelligence?… Oh wait.
Okay, joking aside. It’s well-known that the virtual life we lead is driven by artificial intelligence (AI). As we use technology to entertain ourselves, learn and operate in society, we feed it a constant stream of data. This data serves many purposes, for example, at an individual level it means that each and every dive into the web results in an increasingly personalised experience, informed by our established interests and habits (Look at Google’s or Amazon’s recommendations for a demonstration of this).
For the AI itself, interactions with users are analysed on a large scale using technology called machine learning, which lets it automatically improve its technology and understanding of human behaviour. For the companies in possession of the AI technology, your user data is merged with everyone else’s, to form a tiny part of customer analysis reports which are be used in the making of crucial business and marketing decisions.
Now, let’s be honest with ourselves: AI as a business tool isn’t terribly exciting, and it probably won’t ever be to someone outside working outside of the industry – I use myself as an example here. What is exciting however, are the tangible, high-tech and very real implementations of AI that may as well be plucked from the deck of the USS Enterprise.
I’m talking virtual assistants, self driving cars, voice based security systems – these are the kind of advances that many of us envisioned as kids, and it’s the kind of thing I’m discussing here. As artificial intelligence gets more, well… intelligent, these childish fantasies are – one by one – becoming a reality. In the coming year or two, more AI based future-tech is set to be released into the public. We only have to look into the near future to highlight some ways AI could soon become an even larger part of our lives.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics
In the run-up to the 2020 Olympic games, Tokyo has been teasing enough innovative technology to fill up this entire article with some left over to spare. Entrance to stadiums and other restricted areas will be handled with the aid of seamless, crowd focused facial recognition that makes your phone’s competing capabilities look half blind in comparison.
Fukidashi, an instant translator produced by Panasonic, will also be in use during the games.
Whilst still in its early stages and only able to handle a handful of languages (Japanese, Chinese, English and Korean), it still seems to blow Google Translate out of the water, and brings us a sizable leap closer to that universal translator found in Star Trek.
Most Sci-Fi-ish – at least in my opinion – are the AI driven security robots that are able to scan crowds for individuals displaying “suspicious” behaviour and report them to authorities. Suspicious signs include trembling, flushed complexion and erratic movements, which admittedly do sound like good indicators of fishy behaviour, although the expected heatwave in the city during the games may have some innocent visitors pulled aside as their overheated fluster is misinterpreted as something far more malicious.
On top of sounding cool enough to freeze your coffee, neuromorphic computer chips could change the game when it comes to computing as well as bring about the next generation of AI. By replicating the structure of the brain and its network of neural pathways, these chips are able to form spontaneous connections, deal with uncertainty, and comprehend unusual situations similarly to a human. This means that AI driven by neuromorphic tech will theoretically be able to recognise faults in the real world and assign themselves to relevant tasks accordingly, a godsend for managers of large-scale factory operations and tech phobic PC users alike.
The implications this would have on AI is colossal. As Intel’s website puts it regarding their neuromorphic “Loihi” chip: The first generation of AI were glorified, logic based Chess machines; the second (our current one) are sensory, analytical beasts and this upcoming neuromorphic chip will signal the third generation of AI: adaptable, dynamic and edging so close to being indistinguishably human.
It’s true that 2020 may be a little too early to expect these chips in our phones and fridges, but it’s really not far off. Sources cite early 2021-2025 as the date of widespread integration, but you’ll be hearing all about this technology before then. If you’re the type who fears an AI driven, Terminator style apocalypse, then this is the thing you need to keep an eye on.
AI Based Health Trackers
Health bands and trackers are nothing new. Most people have a long forgotten Fitbit gathering dust in the back of a drawer as a little reminder of an ill-fated new year’s resolution; these AI health trackers take the concept in a slightly different direction though.
Intended to allow earlier discharge from hospitals, these rectangular pads strap onto a patient’s arm following a stay in hospital and monitor all of their vital signs at home (except for blood pressure), quickly understanding what levels and figures are normal for the given patient using machine learning. When those figures fall below or rise above normal, the patient and hospital are notified and action can be taken.
Perhaps this isn’t as intriguing as robot security guards or human/machine hybrid chips, but in terms of impact to daily life this is well worth appreciating. Hospitals are constantly full to the brim, and with the growing population the problem is only getting worse. This technology lets hospitals make the most of their limited room, without completely turning a blind eye to the potentially unstable state of recently discharged patients.
The next few years promise to be filled with revolutionary advances and major changes to how technology affects our lives. There’s no doubt that this is a thrilling time to have even a passing interest in tech, but there’s a dark cloud lurking in the bright, blue AI sky of the 2020s. It seems worryingly uncertain how the job market will be affected by the automation of so many tasks.
Many sources, as well as plain old logic would dictate that jobs would be lost by AI’s growth. However other sources claim that AI will in fact create many more jobs and careers than will be lost. The future seems ambiguous; only time will tell how AI ultimately shapes our lives. One thing is certain though: we’re in for a wild future.