As with many of the great modern technologies that now seem commonplace, artificial intelligence, also known as A.I., could have its roots traced back to classic science fiction stories. In fact, we can trace the word robot all the way back to a play in 1920, “R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). Created by the Czech writer Karel Čapek it depicts the creation of artificial people in a factory intended to assist humans. The creations, which are closer to androids or clones taking into consideration how we now define the word robot, eventually start their own rebellion which leads to the extinction of human beings. Coming out on the heels of the Industrial Revolution and in the midst of the Technological Revolution, this idea of artificial intelligence choosing to turn on its creators has been a common theme ever since. But should it be?
In a little less than a century we have gone from writing about artificial intelligence to creating it. However, it’s not exactly how Karel Čapek envisioned it. Try as we might scientist have yet to make a fully autonomous being capable of complex enough thought to rival that of our brains. There is still a very necessary human, someone to input the data, to course correct, or to perform maintenance. A scientist by the name of Janelle Shane does research with a neural network modeled on how the human brain works. The idea is to find out if a computer can operate in a manner more closely resembling human thought. Most recently she had her neural network generate pick-up lines. Its end result was a wide variety, some completely obscure and some oddly endearing like “You look like a thing and I love you.” Even this however had a great deal of work put into by the human element. Shane had to manually type in a large amount of pick-up lines in order to get the results from the neural network.
Everyone and everything has limitations, A.I. is no different. In fact, many businesses are finding this out the hard way. Most high-profile companies have attempted to integrate A.I. into their platforms to varying degrees of success. Facebook had to look at their own chabot after its rate of failure topped out at 70%. Automation is a word that frequently gets thrown around when talking about jobs. Many people are worried that their jobs will evaporate due to computers being able to do it faster and cheaper. And while this did happen during the turn of the century with innovations like the assembly line overall, it’s less of a fact and more of a scare tactic. Of course, this is always a highly debated topic, but many scientists believe that the evolution of artificial intelligence is headed in a way to assist their human counterparts instead of replace them.
Today artificial intelligence is less science fiction and more science innovation. Despite some early setbacks many companies are working tirelessly to be at the forefront of the autonomous car industry. A car that drives itself needs three very important features: GPS, a system set up to observe the world in direct relation to the car, and inner workings to apply that input into actually driving it safely. In many ways creating any sort of autonomous A.I. requires you to recreate the incredibly sophisticated workings of the human brain - not an easy task. Just ask anyone working on a humanoid A.I., which are becoming more and more present in the technological world. Even car companies like Honda and Toyota have produced their own version. With these the goals are much different from the driverless cars. Those get you from A to B, these are mostly being programmed to aid humans in day to day life. Some are being tested out in hospitals or as in-home assistants to the sick. Singapore has a program call “RoboCoaches” that help the elderly get moving and exercise.
Pepper is one of the most advanced uses of A.I. to date. Created by Aldebaran Robotics and Softbank Pepper navigates similarly to the way a fully autonomous car does with many sensors and camera giving it a 3-D view of its surroundings. This humanoid robot was designed as more of a companion than any kind of utilitarian robot. Its programming allows Pepper to perceive emotions and have a connection with humans rather than simply serving them. And in a similar vein home assistants, or Smart Speakers, like Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Home have limited mobility but a great deal of interfaceable capabilities.
At the end of the day these artificial intelligent robots, if you choose to use Čapek’s word, have a great deal of limitations. Their functionality is programmed by a human element, and still rely on a substantial amount of support and energy. Meaning the robot rebellion is not happening any time soon. And while our A.I.s are becoming more lifelike and faster they are also becoming more helpful. While there are some cases of “robots” replacing human workers, in most instances companies are using computers with artificial intelligence to aid their human element. The future of A.I. only shows signs of our lives being made easier and more efficient. Imagine driving on a highway where every car knows where to go and what to do effectively eliminating traffic jams. Travel in deep space, something that would take generations of humans could be done by one highly intelligent robot. Entire wars could be fought soldierless. Artificially intelligent limbs would give full mobility back to people suffering from lost arms or legs.
Technology is moving faster than it ever has in human history. And with that our future with robotics is looking more and more like the Jetsons and less like Rossum’s Universal Robots.
“Rossum’s Universal Robots”
“Einstein” / Customer Relationship Management