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No need to fear artificial intelligence

Livemint logo Livemint 28/06/2017 Leslie D'Monte
No need to fear artificial intelligence: Strong AI, also called true intelligence or artificial general intelligence (AGI), is still a long way off. Photo: iStockphoto © LiveMint Strong AI, also called true intelligence or artificial general intelligence (AGI), is still a long way off. Photo: iStockphoto

Love it or fear it. Call it useful or dismiss it as plain hype. Whatever your stand is, Artificial Intelligence, or AI, will remain the overarching theme of the digital story that individuals and companies will be discussing for quite some time to come.

It is important, however, to understand the nature of AI—what it can and cannot do.

Unfortunately, individuals and companies often fail to understand this.

For instance, most of the AI we see around caters to narrow specific areas, and hence are categorised as “weak AI”. Examples include most of the AI chatbots, AI personal assistants and smart home assistants that we see, including Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Allo, Amazon’s Alexa or Echo and Google’s Home.

Driverless cars and trucks, however impressive they sound, are still higher manifestations of “weak AI”.

In other words, “weak AI’ lacks human consciousness. Moreover, though we talk about the use of artificial neural networks (ANNs) in deep learning—a subset of machine learning—ANNs do not behave like the human brain. They are loosely modelled on the human brain.

As an example, just because a plane flies in the air, you do not call it a bird. Yet, we are comfortable with the idea that a plane is not a bird and we fly across the world in planes.

Why, then, do we fear AI? Part of the reason is that most of us confuse “weak AI” with “strong AI”. Machines with “strong AI” will have a brain as powerful as the human brain.

Such machines will be able to teach themselves, learn from others, perceive, emote—in other words, do everything that human beings do and more. It’s the “more” aspect that we fear most. 

Strong AI—also called true intelligence or artificial general intelligence (AGI)—is still a far way off.

Some use the term Artificial Superintelligence (ASI) to describe a system with the capabilities of an AGI, without the physical limitations of humans, that would learn and improve far beyond human level.

Many people, including experts, fear that if “strong AI” becomes a reality, AI may become more intelligent than humans. When this will happen is anyone’s guess.

Till then, we have our work cut out to figure how we can make the best use of AI in our lives and companies.

The Accenture Technology Vision 2017 report, for instance, points out that AI is the new user interface (UI) since AI is making every interface both simple and smart. In this edition of Mint’s Technology Quarterly, we also have experts from Boston Consulting Group talking about value creation in digital, and other experts discussing the path from self-healing grids to self-healing factories.

This edition also features articles on the transformative power of genome editing, and how smart cars are evolving.

Your feedback, as usual, will help us make the forthcoming editions better.

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