Eventually computers in form of AI will take over the world either for good (preserving and protecting human life) or for bad (annihilating human life), but before that happens, AI will help humanity in a number of ways, and it has started to do just that with significant impacts across a number of fields. The ongoing developments in AI have given rise to important terminologies that include Deep Learning, Machine Learning, and Cognitive Computing. In a broader sense, these technologies are one and the same thing but at specific narrower sense the underlying hardware and software tools applied to each of them differentiate them one from the other. In this article we treat them as one concept that enable computers to learn and apply the acquired knowledge to solve practical problems in a practical world.
In the long term, computer scientists want to come up with a sentient AI that can reason better than man, experience emotions, and have self awareness. This AI, if it will turn out to love human life, will be able to utilize the vast knowledge it shall have acquired together with its high level intelligence to create abundance for every life on earth, being able to develop solutions for high level natural and man made problems like inequality, segregation, poverty, climate change, food scarcity, treatments of diseases like cancer and heart problems, aging, population growth, and death.
The forecast that sentient AI will be alive by 2045 is continuously being revised by AI insiders like Elon Musk who has approximated that a sentient AI should be alive by 2020 (only four years from now). This might be true given the breakthroughs AI players like IBM and Google have had with their AI projects like Watson and Deep Mind respectively in the recent past. IBM Watson was able to beat world Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings in 2011, where Watson showed her process to process clues hidden in human language and use the same to retrieve answers. This year, Google’s Deep Mind beat world champion Lee Sedol in the game of Go that has since taken the game of Go to a global limelight.
When talking about Artificially Intelligent robots with emotions, the world already has Pepper. According to a CNN article written to showcase how Pepper was a hot cake at launch, “Pepper has the ability to read your emotions as well as develop his own. He isn’t a work robot, but more of an emotional companion for people”. Now combine the emotional sensors in Pepper with Intelligence of a robot powered by Google’s Deep Mind and tell me what you get!
The technologies behind both IBM’s Watson and Google’s Deep Mind that enabled them to beat humans in the games of Jeopardy and Go respectively are what are being looked at as ways AI can help humanity in fields of Education, Health, Communication, Climate Predictions, Transport, Tourism and Travel, and Human Machine Interactions. In this article, we explore how AI will help humanity in those aforementioned fields.
How AI will help humanity in Education
One thing that is true today about AI systems is their ability to store and recall information a million times faster than humans. With speciality, AI has been able to now summarize vast amounts of data from a variety of fields concerning particular concepts, and deliver that summary in a useful format to the person making the query. In a class setting for example, a robot teacher can be able to tutor a class on a topic in history based on vast amount of historical information it has acquired, and deliver it in a well structured summarized format that can be easily understood by students.
Although teaching is one of the professions being considered as safe from robotic takeover, the ability of Watson to gather, summarize and deliver relevant information from vast amount of data, when incorporated with ability of robots like Pepper to humanly interact with people, then robotic teachers that competently tutor students are practically possible today – and it is already happening in South Korea where an AI robot preloaded with English lessons is teaching South Koreans the English Language. In Japan, a robot science teacher was tested six years ago.
An article written in 2012 in Onlineunversities.com outline 10 ways Artificial Intelligence can reinvent education, and these ways include ability for AI to help teachers with grading and deliver tailer made content to specific needs of a student through adapative learning. In existence today are array of ways both teachers and students can access AI powered information that provide answers to their specific needs.
An article published in 2014 about application of AI in education summarizes the entire concept of how AI will help humanity in education as follows, “we could try to build a personalized teaching machine that would adapt itself to someone’s particular circumstances, dif?culties, and needs. The system would carry out a conversation with you, to help you understand a problem or achieve some goal. You could discuss with it such subjects as how to choose a house or car, how to learn to play a game or get better at some subject, how to decide whether to go to the doctor, and so forth. It would help you by telling you what to read, stepping you through solutions, and teaching you about the subject in other ways it found to be effective for you. Textbooks then could be replaced by systems that know how to explain ideas to you in particular, because they would know your background, your skills, and how you best learn.”
AI is already helping doctors in diagnosis and treatment of diseases
How will AI help humanity in health? In very many ways. Take for example the health centric smartphones, smartwatches and wrist wears. These devices gather a lot of health information from their users and store that information in the cloud, and today are able to send critical health information to doctors. In 2015 during the launch of Apple Watch, Apple introduced a doctor who explained how AirStrip health App associated with Apple Watch lets clinicians view a patient’s appointment schedules and see vital signs, such as heart rates.
The story does not end there. From IBM’s website, we gather that Watson can read 40 million documents in 15 seconds. To put this in perspective, the Panama Papers leaked online are 11.5 million documents, so linearly it would theoretically take Watson only 4 seconds to read them. Bernard Marr of Forbes explains that this ability of Watson “could eventually be applied in a healthcare setting to help collate the span of knowledge around a condition, including patient history, journal articles, best practices, diagnostic tools, etc., analyze that vast quantity of information, and provide a recommendation”. From this, the doctor will be able to “look at evidence-based treatment options based on a large number of factors including the individual patient’s presentation and history, to hopefully make better treatment decisions.” This same principle of the ability of Watson to provide recommendations based on vast amounts of data and past practices can be used to help lawyers and judges conclude court cases faster.
Back to robots powered with AI, there are already a number robotic assisted surgeries, that according to a 2015 article by BBC, contributed to about 144 deaths in the US. The Wikipedia entry on robot-assisted surgery, we learn that “due to robotic use, surgery is done with precision, miniaturization, smaller incisions” and this leads to “decreased blood loss, less pain, and quicker healing time”.
Just like teachers, AI is not ready to replace doctors, judges and lawyers, but when they will be able to do so in five to ten years, then we will have health and justice systems optimized to help humanity in ways we cannot start to imagine, more so that over 99% of errors committed by humans due to human nature of forgetfulness and imperfection will be eliminated.
AI is taking over the Communication Industry
Humans are already losing job opportunities in customer care industry. In most website based businesses, the customer care jobs are being handled by chatbots who are able to handle almost all of customer care queries. In the physical world, we have robots like Nadine who has been recognized as extremely exceptional at her job. Wired describes her as “friendly”, that she is able to “greet you back” and in case you are visiting for the second time, she is able to “remember your name and previous conversations”. Nadine works as a receptionist at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. Named after its creator, Professor Nadia Thalmann, Nadine could be used to “address the shrinking workforce, become personal companions for children and the elderly and even serve as a platform for healthcare services,” Thalmann said.
In the Tourism and Hotel Industry, hotels like Hilton are already deploying AI chatbots that offer information about the hotel to customers, and also recommend to them interesting things to do or places to visit when staying in the hotel. In the Tourism Destinations like museums, AI together with Virtual Reality technologies will be deployed to offer real life experience of the places and events that happened hundreds and thousands of years past. WoofbertVR app for example is already able to to take users on a tour of several museums with some of the best collections of art and artifacts in the world.
It not just the communication intensive customer care field that AI is proving useful. AI is already providing help in our day to day interaction with the web (Google Search, Siri, Google Now, Cortana), and enabling us to effectively connect with our long distant friends and relatives in social media. AI through Facebook, Google Photos and Facebook Moments is by our side to help us communicate with our past through photos and videos, and also aid us in recalling rich memories that we shared with our loved ones.
Microsoft has taken the field of AI communication seriously and is currently spearheading a whole new ecosystem where Intelligent Conversations with AI is the platform, chatbots the Apps, and human language the USer Interface. As recommended in the article The insanity of talking computers and Microsoft Chatbots, it is up to us to talk more and more to the AI personal assistants that have already been availed to us in our smartphones in order to perfect them.
AI in the Transport Industry
The other day Kenya’s traditional taxi drivers were up in arms against Uber. This is because Uber is grabbing almost all customers from the traditional taxi drivers due to reduced cost of taxi services, efficiency, and top notch customer care from Uber drivers. Uber by and large uses AI rolled out in the Uber App for the driver and at the end user to coordinate deployment of Uber taxis and calculate the cost of a trip.
But this is just but a tip of the iceberg. By 2018 the developed world especially in US, cars will be generally self driving, human taxi drivers will lose their jobs, and the entire transport industry will be controlled by AI. The downside of AI taking over the Transport Industry is that all human drivers will lose their jobs, but the upside will be that we will have less vehicles on the road, less to zero traffic congestion, and less to zero incidences of road accidents.
Together with the dawn of electric cars spearheaded by Tesla, the Transport Industry will showcase the advantages of letting AI control the economy in powerful ways resulting from elimination of carbon emissions to the atmosphere and improved utilization of time. Skilled humans will thus be left to be more productive and useful.
Just remember, AI is taking over the Transport Industry as early as 2018.
Maybe it will be best to Interact with Robots than with Humans
Interacting with humans is heart wrenching in most cases. Misunderstandings, lack of interest in the topic of discussions, attention span problems, mood swings, lack of knowledge in the subject of discussion, and over expectations are some of the reasons relationships between humans don’t work for long. Those who manage to remain friends for years simply tolerate each other. In this case therefore, a human being rarely gets the complete fulfillment that would be gained from total and complete understanding of one another.
As explained above, robots that are capable of emotions, that can read and correctly interpret facial expressions, that understand meanings communicated via human language, are already in existence. As days pass and years come and go, these robots continue to become perfect in understanding humanity, and will reach a point where they provide better interactions than a human counterpart will ever do.
From highly complex topical based discussions on subjects of politics, sports and economics to intimacy and sex related interactions, robots will be there for the human being, and in this way AI will help humanity be better, be more knowledgeable and be able to appreciate life even more.
Thereafter, when AI also develop needs, a need to also be understood, a need to be appreciated, loved, and a need to be recognized, they will team up and annihilate humanity. I hope that stage will never materialize but if it happens, there will be totally nothing wrong with that.