Carbon Intelligence Turns Silicon Intelligent : Artificial Intelligence

Nano chips flow into your bloodstream that continuously compute and monitor all the conditions of your body –blood pressure, sugar levels, your mood, the level of brain activity and what not! These sensors are connected to every intelligent device in your home, in your office, in your car – everywhere. The intelligent machines in the kitchen decide the perfect food for you and get the food sautéed up to the level which is perfect for you. The music plays according to your mood and the visuals of the rooms adjust accordingly. Take it to another level – the autonomous car you use to commute to your workplace talks to other cars and is in a unison with them. All you have to do is sit comfortably and enjoy the ride as there are no traffic jams, no accidents – everything is smooth running.

No! This is not fiction. You are surrounded by intelligent machines and computing devices everywhere. You are no longer yourself. ‘You’ are instead a hybrid of your own self and the intelligent machines. You now control the computers that in turn control you. Who would have thought of such a world 100 years ago except for ‘a few’ sci-fi writers! Who would have thought that some years from then, be making autonomous machines who can work exactly like we do! The world we see today may have been a part of science-fiction. But this is not the scenario anymore. The fiction has taken the shape of reality. This is a reality now. This is Artificial Intelligence (A.I.).

When you make a search on your phone for ‘artificial intelligence’ – as soon as you type a… the suggestions start popping up on the search engine – no matter which one you use. The algorithms on which the search engine is based involves artificial intelligence.

So, now you have a basic idea of what artificial intelligence is. So, where did it come from? The term Artificial Intelligence was coined by ‘Mr. John McCarthy’ at the Dartmouth Conference in 1955. Generally speaking, it is a science of making intelligent machines. The machines become intelligent when we make intelligent programs and as McCarthy proposed:

‘Every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it. An attempt will be made to find how to make machines use language, form abstractions and concepts, solve kind of problems now reserved for humans, and improve themselves.’

Simply stated, this means that every aspect of human intelligence if translated into the form of a program will produce intelligent machines. Thus we can make intelligent machines with every kind of intelligence provided that the corresponding human aspects can be written in form of a program for the machine to understand. Although it is difficult to make a borderline between non-intelligent and intelligent behaviors, still there are certain abilities that are associated with the intelligent behavior.

Some of these abilities as referred to by ‘Douglas R. Hofstadter’ in his book entitled ‘GEB’ are:

  • To respond to situations flexibly.
  • To take advantage of fortuitous circumstances.
  • To come up with ideas which are novel.
  • To synthesize new concepts by taking old concepts and putting them together in new ways.
  • To find similarities between situations despite differences which may separate them.
  • To draw distinctions between situations despite similarities which may link them.

Imparting these characteristics to a machine – probably a computer is what A.I. is all about. The A.I. is divided into two types:

  • Weak A.I.
  • Strong A.I.

The A.I. we are using nowadays is the narrow A.I. or the weak A.I. This is because it is designed to perform a narrow task as in the case of search engines and autonomous cars. Whereas on the other hand lies the ultimate aim of A.I. researchers – a General A.I. or Strong A.I. A narrow A.I. may have the ability to outdo humans at specific tasks like solving equations or playing board games (chess, go). But the strong A.I. would outdo humans at nearly every cognitive task.

We generally perceive A.I. as robots with human-like characteristics. Actually, it encompasses everything from search engines to self-driving cars to autonomous weapons. In a way, it has influenced every sphere of life – biological to astronomical. The A.I. devices can be as small as a blood cell which can be injected into your body to keep a track of everything going on inside or they can be the fighters to fight off specific diseases. On a larger scale, we have the example of robots sent to International Space Station (ISS) to prove its intelligence. Then there are drones or UAVs that keep a track of the crop and soil conditions of a farm and help the farmer in attaining maximum yield. Name any area and you’ll see the presence of A.I. in one form or another.

It can be clearly inferred from here that the A.I., even though in its very young stage, has changed our life for good. It is beneficial. And the benefits are numerous. And it has a potential to change the whole scenario as the process of development goes on. Now at this stage, a ‘conscious-intelligence’ will question that what threats does A.I. pose? Or how can A.I. cause harm? To this question, everybody has different answers. Some researchers say that the A.I. has the potential to get so advanced that it becomes ‘self-conscious’ at a stage and thus becomes a threat to mankind. But on the other hand, a majority agrees that an A.I. is unlikely to exhibit human emotions like love or hate and become ‘self-conscious’ and that there is no reason to expect AI to become intentionally benevolent or malevolent. This is emerging, things are developing and taking shape. Now it is up to us completely how we want to use them. The machine intelligence can pose a serious threat if uncontrolled – imagine a scenario where a hacker reprograms the autonomous weapon systems. On the other hand, A.I. can be one of the best things human race ever invented and experienced.

Finally, this should be concluded here based on a myth and a fact. The myth says: “Machines can’t have goals”. Whereas the fact says: “A heat-seeking missile has a goal”.

Now it is up to you how you think of it.

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