In the modern age, the public awareness of artificial intelligence has taken us from robots – a term first used by a Czech writer in 1920, and generally used to describe a clunky, logic-based humanoid – to AI, the pervasive intelligence that is understood to be everywhere, with or without our knowledge of its presence.
At times it seems the realization of the perfect AI system is simply inevitable, as each new year has seen an increase in new developments. In 1997, world chess champion Gary Kasparov was beaten by Deep Blue, an IBM supercomputer, and in 2014 an AI named Eugene Goostman was the first to pass the prestigious Turing Test, designed to determine whether a computer has human capacities.
A recent development was Sophia, a robot made by a Hong Kong-based company that appeared on chat shows and also on the cover of magazines, and seemed to show a semblance of human behavior. However, the media fanfare died down when it was discovered some of the apparently natural conversations were partly scripted.
Distant speculations of the potential dangers of robots have long been a favorite topic of science fiction; from HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey to Black Mirror, audiences have been captivated by the prospect of machines that can become powerful enough to control and harm humans. But a slightly more mundane fear is that of the jobs robots could replace, with a report from the Brookings Institution suggesting as many as 25% of jobs in the US could be automated by 2030.
While automation may be unavoidable, AI systems obtaining artificial general intelligence – that’s human-level intelligence – is still a long way off, as leading scientists have observed a plateau in the development of an actual and independent AI. There’s also some lack of clarity regarding the term artificial intelligence, as it’s become a catch-all phrase that can refer to systems that analyze and make decisions based on predefined criteria. Machine learning, on the other hand, is when computers are learning by themselves and without instruction, which is a step in the direction of truly replicating human behavior.
Aside from the intellectual potential of robots, how are we able to make the best practical use of AI systems in our daily lives? If you’re interested in finding out how AI can be used to help your business grow without letting the machines take over, companies like Prosyn provide IT support services that can advise on and integrate solutions into your business practice.
In the Workplace
Businesses that haven’t already explored the various ways AI can help to streamline their practices may be missing out on excellent opportunities to maximize efficiency and growth.
Human resource is a key area for which time-consuming tasks can be handled by programs specifically designed to screen applicants, schedule interviews or manage administration. A range of cloud-based software solutions is available to take on the HR workload, such as BambooHR.
Another essential aspect of business that can be aided by AI is customer service. According to an American Express survey, seven out of ten consumers spend more money with companies that deliver excellent service, and another survey found 60% stop doing business as a result of poor service. Customers do not perceive AI to be a negative aspect of service provided that it performs tasks effectively, and the capabilities are fast improving. Customer service software solutions are able to integrate into messaging platforms, and AI being developed by Cogito is working on the use of emotional intelligence for dealing with customers. Chatbots are already in use by a growing number of platforms, and Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of customer service will be without human interaction.
Marketing can also be made easier with the use of AI, especially in digital marketing. This is a field in which machine learning can be used to target potential audiences and demographics across a range of different platforms and optimize advertising through replication and adjustment. Platforms such as Adext AI provide this service.
When it comes to management, it’s no surprise AI can help to organize and make more efficient such tasks as the scheduling of meetings, conferences, and activities, giving reminders, taking notes, and assisting with decision making. Business management software solutions such as Zoho or Monday offer these and other functions.
There is doubtlessly no end of household chores that most of us would prefer to have taken off our hands, and many of these are tasks a friendly robot can help out with.
When they were first widely used over a decade ago, robot cleaners were more of a novelty than an actual help at home. But technology has progressed, and now intelligent vacuum cleaner bots are able to make a survey and work out where they need to clean, while also tracking their progress. Popular robot vacuum cleaners are from iRobot and Neato Botvac. Similar robot cleaners are available for window cleaning and mowing the lawn, and it surely won’t be long before you can have an R2D2 to take on all your cleaning chores.
In the age of the Internet of Things (IoT), such things as security can be handled from any given device, with control over smart locks and camera surveillance. Smart camera systems, such as Netatmo or Nest Cam, are now able to distinguish between pets, trees blowing in the wind, and burglars.
Smart assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, have a great many uses to make life at home simple, convenient and relaxing. This can be anything from ordering your shopping or making quick calls to selecting your music or reading a bedtime story.
For those times you need something to entertain the kids for an hour or two, a smart robot such as Zenbo may be able to fill the vacancy. These intelligent robots are able to sing songs, play games and read stories to children. At just over 30cm in height, they are small and inoffensive.
It’s no secret driverless cars have been in development in recent years, and companies including Audi, Tesla, Waymo, General Motors, and Uber are working to exploit the new market. But with a number of accidents taking place, it seems the technology will require some extra development before government approval can be obtained.
In addition to the trial of self-driving cars, autonomous buses have already been trialed in China, Finland, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Switzerland. Autonomous trucks for the transportation of cargo were piloted by Uber and Starsky Robotics in 2018.
For those who are concerned about the safety of autonomous vehicles at this early stage, artificial intelligence still finds a place in the transport industry. Traffic management AI systems are already being used to lessen congestion, with smart traffic lights acting to ease the flow of traffic. The paths of pedestrians and cyclists can also be predicted and factored into traffic management to reduce the risk of accidents. For corporations, road freight transport systems are also able to use AI to predict congestion and save time and money in logistics.
While spectacular breakthroughs in robotics providing media sensations for a short period, for the moment it seems any artificially-created intelligence will remain far removed from human independent thought or consciousness. It could be that developments in machine learning will take us closer, or perhaps such things will only ever be possible through natural reproduction. But this does not mean AI cannot be useful to humans in many ways, and so far the 21st century has shown us a variety of uses – from placing our calls to managing our finances. Far from being the chilling specter of dominance over the human race, AI is a multi-faceted tool that can do the jobs we prefer to avoid. And if a robot ever becomes boring or tedious, we always have the power to switch it off for the time being.