Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Technology Trends: Artificial Intelligence - are they replacing human intelligence?

I was thinking what's the best way to share my view or information about technologies while not commenting too much on specific events or companies in the industry. And I think I got a good idea. Talk about the latest Internet technologies or Computer Science in plain words and draw the vision for the future.

So, here's today's topic: Artificial Intelligence. It has been a popular topic of Sci-Fi movies, but it's becoming a reality. And what does it mean?

As some of you may know, IBM's computer "Watson" won the game Jeopardy. It must remind you about Deep Blue won against world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. But actually, winning in chess is a simpler problem compared to understanding subtle human languages. The AI technology has got to the point where machines can understand what people say in natural language, and even answer a quiz.

At this point, some could ask "so computers started to think like human does?" or even "wow, then that means machines are replacing human?" Some could imagine those scenes of SkyNet terminating human being or some other Sci-Fi movies.

But actually the simple answer here is, no, they won't replace us. Computers are not mimicking how humans think. Because of such a difference, computers do some tasks really well and fast, but in other tasks have hard time doing something any person can do. Let me draw some examples here. On one hand, machine translation algorithm can translate this blog article to 10 or even more languages in a blink. If I'm asked to do this task, I'd freak out. On the other hand, it is very hard to make a machine correctly recognize different objects it sees, but even babies can do that.

So why is it? It's because computers "think" in a very different way than humans do. In modern AI algorithms, it (AI) stores lots of examples, like millions or billions, learn the patterns, and when it's asked about something, it compares the question with the pattern it knows. It's called Statistical AI. In the example above, learning patterns of the same sentences in different languages is something computers can already handle well, but learning almost infinite patterns of visuals of vast amount of objects is much harder problem, at least for now. Or even harder, if AI is asked "what do you think about this guy?", the only thing it can do is to return the statistics about what people thought about the guy.
So, in a nutshell, AI doesn't mimic human intelligence, but it enhances our capabilities by doing things that's almost impossible for humans.

I'm quite excited about the future of AI for the next decade. There are several major trends that will make AI more useful in everyday life. I guess most of you think AI is not relevant to you now. But I bet you - it surely will become relevant to your everyday life. Or I could say, you might be already using AI every day. I will talk about such trends in the next tech post.

# This post shares my personal view on technologies, and does not represent opinions of any organizations I belong.

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