ai future outlook Articles and Reports
Explore future perspectives on artificial intelligence applications and trends - including products and applications in marketing, finance, and other sectors.
Picture this: Mad Men returns for a final season set in the near future. The advertising agency Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce is still a powerhouse though its namesakes have since retired. Actually, the entire human staff has been reduced to just a few account men, managers, and technicians. Where are the creatives? They're in the computers.
Artificial intelligences are becoming better storytellers by the day. Last week, a novella written by an AI program nearly won a Japanese literary contest. “The Day a Computer Writes a Novel” (Konypyuta ga shosetsu wo kaku hi) is a surprisingly human tale of an AI that recognizes its writing skills and abandons its programmed task of aiding humanity in order to satisfy an artistic urge. The Japanese News reports (in an article that appears to be taken down at the time of this article update, September 2017) that this meta-novella and 10 other AI-authored submissions faced competition from over 1,400 man-penned manuscripts for the Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award.
If the story of Cyc were written by Aesop, it would probably read something like The Tortoise and the Hare. The 30-year-old artificial intelligence engine's slow, steady, and idiosyncratic development is set to challenge recent pattern recognition methods that have seen AI algorithms conquer centuries-old board games and rush-hour traffic. Where the latter found success creating statistical models by processing troves of data on its own, Cyc’s professed skill will come from hardcoded rules and logic that allow it to understand how and why data points are related.
Cyc is a common sense engine, which over the past three decades has been fed thousands and thousands of encyclopedic facts. Since computers lack human-level inference, Cyc’s creators also fed it background knowledge – facts that we’d consider self-evident – to help connect the dots between what, how, and why things happened.
So, if Cyc is told that in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue, the system is also informed that Columbus sailed on the Mayflower, the Mayflower is a ship, a ship is a boat, and boats float. This degree of specificity is designed to make Cyc a comprehensive and unique resource with real-world applicable knowledge; it also helps explain why the knowledge base took so long to develop.
From Silicon Valley to South Korea, artificial intelligence has been one of the hottest tech topics of the year. In fact, 2016 was meant to be “the year that virtual reality becomes reality”, and yet AI seems to be dominating the discussion. Now, top business schools around the world – from University of California, Berkeley to National University of Singapore – are turning to AI to help bolster their programs and train MBA students to apply machine learning processes to business problems.
If you’re sick of selfie sticks, Boston-based software company Neurala may have an alternative for you. The Selfie Dronie is a paid mobile application compatible with Parrot Bebop drones that offers users a relatively hands free way to record selfies and dronies (those aerial shots often associated with extreme sports and Redbull advertisements).
In the first week of 2016, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced in a post that his goal for the year was to “build a simple AI to run my home and help me with my work.” He clarified, "You can think of it kind of like Jarvis in Iron Man.” Zuckerberg went on to describe his plan to explore presently available smart home technologies, implement them into his home, and train the system to coordinate with his family life and workaday. (Interestingly, Zuckerberg’s AI may utilize a number of devices, but he refers to the technology as a singular system, implying that he intends to develop a unified AI to oversee the many individual devices.)
Before we welcome a new technology into our lives, it’s wise to consider what effect it will have on us as human beings. What might a technologically disruptive app do to our innate empathy or self-esteem? When that technology is so sophisticated to actually resemble human beings, this forethought is that much more important. Robots and artificial intelligence will disrupt the very fabric of society, and dramatically change the way we relate to technology and to each other. (In fact, they already are.) So preparing for this change is perhaps as important – if not more important – than the development of the technology itself.
In this vein, Brown University recently put their support behind the Humanity-Centered Robotics Initiative (HCRI), a faculty-lead effort to explore, uncover, and report on the many facets of integrating robotics into our everyday lives. As anyone who’s read Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke can attest, even if we’re very cautious, this integration has the potential to augment or destroy. HCRI hopes to anticipate this disruption and help engineers, researchers, and social scientists steer robotics in the most reasonably right direction.
“We want to leverage the atmosphere, interests, and talent at Brown University with the goal of creating robotic systems that work with people for the benefit of people,” computer science professor Michael Littman told Emerj. "And we’re dedicated to understanding what the actual problems are – not just to create fancy technology, but actually to try to understand where the difficulties and short comings are and to focus on those.”
HCRI’s focus will be split into six, collaborative research focuses: robots for scientific research; motion systems science; design and making; perception and decision-making; robots for independent living; and ethics, policy, and security. Combining elements of design and making with ethics, policy, and security, one DARPA-funded project plans to explore ways of engineering robots that have some awareness of social norms.
Littman co-founded HCRI with Professor Bertrand Malle three years ago, with the intent to focus a number of academic perspectives on robotics and collaborate in the process. Brown’s recent support now allows Littman and Malle to bring an associate director and a postdoctoral researcher on board, as well as offer seed funds to new robotics research and symposia. Already, two HCRI-sponsored symposia have brought more than 60 Brown faculty members from 20 teams together in the interest of a better robotic future.
In the ongoing "pop culture" debate as to whether or not the pursuit of AI will result in Terminators that destroy humanity, there are many other more informed and nuanced discussions occurring in academic and business circles about the consequences and implications of continued advances in AI. A surprising number of legitimate AI researchers are of the belief that many of us will live to see "conscious" artificial intelligence in our lifetime.