“Artificial intelligence is overhyped—there, we said it. It’s also incredibly important.
Superintelligent algorithms aren’t about to take all the jobs or wipe out humanity. But software has gotten significantly smarter of late. It’s why you can talk to your friends as an animated poop on the iPhone X using Apple’s Animoji, or ask your smart speaker to order more paper towels.
Tech companies’ heavy investments in AI are already changing our lives and gadgets, and laying the groundwork for a more AI-centric future.
The current boom in all things AI was catalyzed by breakthroughs in an area known as machine learning. It involves “training” computers to perform tasks based on examples, rather than by relying on programming by a human. A technique called deep learning has made this approach much more powerful. Just ask Lee Sedol, holder of 18 international titles at the complex game of Go. He got creamed by software called AlphaGo in 2016.
For most of us, the most obvious results of the improved powers of AI are neat new gadgets and experiences such as smart speakers, or being able to unlock your iPhone with your face. But AI is also poised to reinvent other areas of life. One is health care. Hospitals in India are testing software that checks images of a person’s retina for signs of diabetic retinopathy, a condition frequently diagnosed too late to prevent vision loss. Machine learning is vital to projects in autonomous driving, where it allows a vehicle to make sense of its surroundings.
There’s evidence that AI can make us happier and healthier. But there’s also reason for caution. Incidents in which algorithms picked up or amplified societal biases around race or gender show that an AI-enhanced future won’t automatically be a better one.”
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