The Future Of Artificial Intelligence

The American Association for Artificial Intelligence has a nice archive of AI-related webpostings all around the web.

Have a look at it here.

A few illustrative quotes:

Some AI systems are famous, such as Deep Blue, the computer that beat the world chess champion Garry Kasparov, or Predators, the unmanned spy planes hovering over Afghanistan. But the machine intelligence that underlies most such systems is largely invisible, so people take their cleverness for granted. AI experts grouse that once one of their projects succeeds, people no longer consider it to be AI.

Until recently, progress in artificial intelligence lagged so far behind computing technology that some in the field talked about an ‘A.I. winter,’ after commercial and government funding evaporated in the mid-1980’s. Now there is talk about an A.I. spring among researchers like Sebastian Thrun, the director of the Stanford lab.

Many people think of artificial intelligence (AI) as a high-flying 1980s tech concept that crashed and burned back in the early 1990s after a good deal of hype. The fact is, AI technology has become pervasive in much of the software we use today.

To be sure, AI has its successes. Factory robots use machine vision to track parts. Automotive suspension systems and camcorders use fuzzy logic to smooth out jarring motions. Hospitals use large knowledge bases of drug effects and interactions to ensure that prescribed drugs don’t conflict with one another. Computer programs now repeatedly beat the world’s chess champions. Part of AI’s image problem stems from the fact that whenever a development moves from lab to market, it’s no longer artificial intelligence; it’s just software.

There’s a joke in the AI community that as soon as AI works, it is no longer called AI,’ says Sara Hedberg, a spokeswoman for the American Association for Artificial Intelligence. Hedberg, who has written about AI for the past 20 years or so, has done her share of trying to enlighten reporters who are ready to declare AI dead. ‘Once a technology leaves the research labs and gets proven, it becomes ubiquitous to the point where it is almost invisible,’ she says.

Computers and software can now perform tasks that were impossible five years ago, so it pays to keep an open mind, according to Amreetha Vijayakumar, Frost & Sullivan Technical Insights research analyst. ‘AI is slowly starting to propagate in the normal business case, especially in applications risk assessment, CRM, data mining, these applications are starting to reach users.’ … In some cases she says, AI goes unnoticed because developers don’t accept that AI is used in their products.

Henry Lieberman and other artificial intelligence researchers say computers could become dramatically smarter and more humanlike in the future. The brain is just a physical machine, albeit a complicated one we don’t yet understand, they argue. ‘People have this illusion that what we do is magic and it will never be automated,’ said University of Pennsylvania computer science professor Lyle Ungar. When he first started studying artificial intelligence, he said, no one thought a computer could play chess well enough to beat the masters. Today, computers can beat everyone at chess, he said, and we’re no longer impressed.

Another reason for the apparent lack of machine intelligence is that, if you know how a computer does something, it no longer seems intelligent. … An example of what might be regarded as intelligent behavior is automated translation of language. This is done by Google, for example.

Pattern recognition is linked to [artificial intelligence], which was very hyped in the ’70s and ’80s, and that was very detrimental,’ said Sameer Samat, chief technology officer at Kofax Image Products Inc., which bought pattern-recognition software maker Mohomine Inc. last year. ‘For a time, if you mentioned pattern recognition, people just hung up the phone.’ But new interest, based on security necessities arising after the 2001 terrorist attacks, may bring more popularity to pattern recognition.

There’s a cliché that as soon as something starts to work people no longer call it AI. There’s some truth to that because once it starts to work then people can explain how it works. Once the mystery is no longer there, people say that’s just an algorithm. There is a misconception that AI is only AI if it has a black box that produces intelligence in a mysterious way.

Michael Kearns said this latest advance represented just a small part of a burst of progress in recent years in artificial intelligence and robotics. People have begun to take it for granted that computers can recognize voices and faces, give directions, sift through information on the Web, and create complicated models to predict the weather. … Kearns, of Penn, said: ‘As soon as someone gets a computer to do it, people say: ‘That’s not what we meant by intelligence.’ People subconsciously are trying to preserve for themselves some special role in the universe.

We’re in an era of what I’d call ‘narrow AI’, where systems are performing intelligent functions that used to require human intelligence. Intelligent systems can fly and land airplanes or make financial investment decisions. These were research projects 10 years ago and are now in widespread practical application and have become integrated into our information infrastructure. Every time an application works, it’s no longer called AI – it becomes a separate field. It’s speech recognition, character recognition, robotics, machine vision, etc.

‘People say that neural networks and AI were not successful because we don’t have humanoid robots walking around, but they don’t realize that there are hundreds of applications of this technology that we use every day without thinking,’ [Ronald] Brachman said. ‘Machine-learning techniques are now built into a variety of commercial systems, finding credit card fraud, evaluating mortgage applications, detecting illegal telephone calls and recognizing speech.’ He maintained that ‘AI planning algorithms were successful in Desert Storm and are being used every day by the military in complicated logistic situations.’

Many people only think of robots when artificial intelligence is brought up, he said, but most of the current software available today use artificial intelligence.

In his forthcoming book ‘I’m Working on That: A Trek From Science Fiction to Science Fact,’ William Shatner explores the reciprocity between Starship Enterprise fantasy and real-life scientific breakthroughs. ‘What was suggested 30 years ago in ‘Star Trek’ is now old hat,’ he said in a telephone interview. … As a culture, we have become writers of our own fantasy saga in which pacemakers, cloning, the Internet, speech recognition software and the like are merely part of the scenery.

Quietly, though, AI researchers were making more than progress – they were making products. It’s a trend that’s been easy to miss, because once the technology is in use, nobody thinks of it as AI anymore. ‘Every time we figure out a piece of it, it stops being magical; we say, ‘Oh, that’s just a computation,’ laments Rodney Brooks, the director of MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. … In truth, we may never chat up a computer at a cocktail party. But in smaller yet significant ways, artificial intelligence is already here: in the cruise control of cars… The future is all around us.

In fact, AI — or what was once considered AI until it became commonplace — is now almost everywhere.–

‘Software is just getting smarter and smarter and smarter.’ [Carol] Brown agrees, saying that accounting firms have ‘integrated AI into their normal software, so they don’t think about it as AI anymore.’

According to the primary examiner for AI in the U.S. Patent Office, Robert Downs, a decade ago only about 100 patents mentioned AI specifically; last year, about 1700 mentioned artificial intelligence, with another 3900 or so mentioning related terms. About 2200 patents are specifically classified in the Patent Office’s class for artificial intelligence, which means that the invention or technique is specifically directed to something new in knowledge-based systems, machine learning, fuzzy logic, or neural networks.

Successful applications of AI are part of, and buried in, larger systems that probably do not carry the label AI inside.

To sum it all up: Many people do not take AI seriously, but it’s coming anyway and it will eventually have a huge impact on our lives.

It will probably happen a lot faster than you might think, because of a little thing called The Law Of Accelerating Returns.

For more information regarding the implications of artificial intelligence, read the Singularity FAQ.

3 thoughts on “The Future Of Artificial Intelligence

  1. Anonymous

    I think this is a great article, but I think it will be in 10 years or more. But it will come, we cannot do a thing about it!

Leave a Reply