Thomas Hollowell - Author, Athlete, Entrepreneur, World Traveler

The AI Future

Predictions of a world where androids walk amongst us have captured our imagination for decades. The desire to construct a machine-brain akin to our own has been the pursuit of Artificial Intelligence (a.k.a. AI) experts since the famed Dartmouth Conference in 1956, which coined the term for the first time. With greater understanding in the cognitive sciences, warp-speed advances in computer technology, and researchers using the Apple Mac OS platform, science fiction is becoming reality.

AI has already permeated our culture, whether we realize it or not. AI, in the modern sense, is any machine that applies what it learns. And, learning in computer code is based on algorithms, or step-by-step formulas. So, machines that use learning algorithms constitute low-level Artificial Intelligence. An example would be your iPhone as your e-mail, call, or file is routed.

The central issue with AI is that it is limited to certain situations. Even the AI computer Deep Blue, who beat Garry Kasparov at chess, would not beat a human at a game with a greater amount of scenarios. While AI machines might perform one task better than any human, when it comes to tackling more than a limited set of possibilities, an AI machine cannot literally
think outside of the box.

The folks at Apple have some interesting case studies and white papers outlining how Mac OS is helping researchers get one step closer in their goals. Teams at the University of Calgary in Canada, for example, make up the Evolutionary and Swarm Design (ESD) Research Group. Their theories at first glace seem to come straight out of a comic book plot line. But, their analyses of ant, bee, and even termite swarms are helping scientists understand how independent agents can accomplish one goal without supervision. In other words, how a decentralized system with a collective intelligence (found in swarms) might one day extend to how we program computers and AI – a whole bunch of small parts working towards one goal. Additionally, the ESD and other departments at the university are using a “Mac-based infrastructure” to enhance capacity, flexibility, and function.

Other university programs have dedicated entire departments to the field. MIT has its Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, while Stanford University has its Artificial Intelligence & Robotics Program. These programs are currently setting the world standard in the understanding of AI. However, it is unclear, according to researchers, where the field will take us. Will cars self drive? Will a steadier, intelligent robotic hand oversee medical operations? Will computers talk to us as friends?

What has been viewed in films over the last decades give us a grim prediction of a world populated by malevolent machines. From
A Space Odyssey’s Hal to Robocop to Spielberg’s own AI, all the stories seem to mimic a Frankenstein-like evolution where AI slips from human grasp. The cynical view of AI and Robotics is most often supported by Moore’s Law, which states that over a short period, the power of computers increases exponentially – a rapid evolution strong enough to turn a technophile into a technophobe overnight.

No matter how wary we become AI will continue to grow as much as any field closely linked to computer-science advancement. The focus of many researchers’ energies, including those of Apple’s development labs, is that of nanotechnology. Having the potential to manipulate atoms and molecules, even genetics and communication at their base level, opens doors to a universe of possibilities. The iPod Nano would be the most recent, albeit rudimentary case in point.

AI and robotics also affect how we will deal with society, leaving ethical questions to be asked in retrospect. In a recent article presented in the
New Scientist, it was revealed that some security companies are equipping their robots with stun guns, while military weapons companies, such as iRobot and Foster-Miller of Waltham, both in Massachusetts, have already created robots that have been approved to tote lethal weapons.

Furthermore, the Mac OS UNIX platform is also being used in the field of Artificial Life (ALife), a sub-element of AI. A computer program uses digital DNA to map known evolutionary processes in order that virtual beings are successfully created. The computer program
learns what works and discards what does not. While these creations are virtual, the potential of what is learned on the screen could one day be used to cure diseases, manipulate genetic code, and therefore alter humanity as we know it.

No matter how it is viewed, Apple computers and software are the machines behind AI evolution. Numerous scientists claim that it is because of Mac’s easy-to-use platform, robustness, and security. Whether researchers are watching insects to better understand humanity, attempting to cure diseases using nanotechnology, or creating virtual civilizations that might someday become our own, the future role of AI in our daily lives is a sure one. And, at this point in time, it is still in our hands to decide what will someday define what it is to be
human.

Appears in: ComputorEdge V25N33