All Aboard the TrAIn to Westworld

See what I did there? TrAIn? AI or to give it its Sunday name Artificial Intelligence is everywhere just now. Or rather, it is everywhere in the technology press, but we’re just at the cusp of it coming into and affecting our lives. No longer do we need to worry about Cloud or Big Data as our hype trends, now we have AI and her close friend IoT.  (You forgot Machine Learning – Ed)

However, we are several years away from seeing the true impact of AI. The growth in the number of connected devices allows businesses to transform (you nearly got Digital Transformation in as well for those playing buzzword bingo – Ed) based on the more and varied sources of data. As the number of connected devices grows so our Data Scientists can interpret and turn this deluge of data into business Information.

IOT Infographic

(Image Source; The Connectivist)

At present, this is simply Machine Learning, not true Artificial Intelligence. Current decision making technologies and outcomes are programmed by humans, there is no interpretation with all outcomes driven by complex algorithms. We now have infrastructure solutions more capable than ever of processing information in real time. As an example, Suduko; a typical person would take over two hours to complete a 4×4 puzzle, Google Image Recognition Software can complete the same puzzle in 9 seconds.

Therefore we know advantages can be gained by systems completing tasks faster than humans can possibly consider. We have high precision robots, we can translate signs simply by pointing our phones at them using image recognition and we almost have driverless cars, however the car doesn’t quite understand yet why I want to go via Dominos to collect a pizza on the way home.

The gap to true AI is logic and reasoning; whilst robots can do a significant amount of human tasks they will not know why, they are following a set of instructions. Whilst we can possibly program logic into a robotic operation can we get the same robot to comprehend moral issues? What if a self-driving car is out of control? Does it drive into a wall risking its passengers or hit a bus stop of people? The moral issue has relevance in these situations, and has to be involved in the decision making process.

So whilst we are still somewhat away from holidaying at Westworld[i] the current rate of technological advancement will see it arrive in the next several years. It will have a material impact on all our lives and we will see autonomous vehicles, enhanced customer services and a myriad of options we simply have not considered yet. The data we are generating today is already impacting development of future products and services, from healthcare to transport and everything in between.

The obvious concern is the terminator scenario where computers think for themselves and take over, as per the well-publicised exchange between Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk recently there are differing opinions on this. Whilst unlikely, the potential for computers to adopt human traits of emotion, aggression and protection exist and it’s important that humans retain the ultimate off switch.

I’m not planning to work for Cyberdyne Systems or develop my own Skynet just yet, and I fully intend that any robot will work for me and not the other way about.

 

[i] Westworld, for those living in a bubble, is an American science fiction western thriller television series. The story takes place in the fictional Westworld, a technologically advanced Wild West–themed amusement park populated by android hosts. Westworld caters to high-paying guests, who may indulge in whatever they wish within the park, without fear of retaliation from the hosts, or so they thought.

 

About Bill McGloin

Bill is Computacenter's Chief Technologist for Information

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