by Alex Lesser
Everyone knows the scenario – after years of development and advancements, machines imbued with Artificial Intelligence somehow become self-aware without the knowledge of their human creators and end up destroying humanity as we know it. It’s a crazy premise, but if you listen to Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and other futurists, it’s a possibility.
Science fiction movies have a habit of predicting doom and destruction, but the truth is we don’t have to worry about this dystopian world where AI becomes something man cannot control. True, there could be unpredictable social consequence much like those brought about by the rise of social media. But in terms of actual takeover and destruction, the odds are slim to none. Rather than fretting about killer robots, it’s time to realise that the AI revolution is actually the proliferation of “Big Intelligence” and its future is much more benign. Big Intelligence is where we are today in terms of automation, robotics and computing – and it bears little similarity to the sentient machines most people think of when they hear AI. What’s more, fear of AI shouldn’t hinder the legitimately useful work Big Intelligence can help complete.
Many companies like to tout the AI capabilities of their offerings, but much of the literature you’ll find is nothing more than marketing gimmick. The technology being commercialised or used in research is not really AI, but simply better programming and faster data crunching fueled by advancements in hardware. While futurists like to envision the all-knowing, self-aware machine, Artificial Intelligence or machine learning is not a substitute for human intelligence, and even the most advanced machines are far from substituting a human brain.
With the convergence of large datasets with faster computers and better code to process the data, Big Intelligence has progressed over the past decade due to real technology advancements that allow us to collect and process data at an ever increasing rate, and it’s what powers most AI platforms today. But the key here is not some technology that can replace human intelligence – rather, AI as it currently stands is a set of tools that merely help us better process, interpret, and understand the mass amounts of data companies gather from actual thinking humans. It can help businesses better predict their own and their customers’ needs, to better optimise and even conserve resources.
The only reason we are discussing the possibility of AI is due to recent advancements in computing performance. If the hardware could not process data in near real-time, things like self-driving cars, automated logistics centres, operating systems that are virtual and learn through association would still be figments of our imagination. However, ultimately these so-called AI data still rely on constant data input from humans, without which they could not function.
Artificial Intelligence is a misnomer. Most of what we consider AI is really a high-performance computer (HPC) crunching a massive amount of data, which does not have intelligence the way a human brain does to conceptualise, reach its own conclusions and think for itself. What it can do is improve computing processes through automation, but the end result of most automated processes still requires human supervision.
Computers can now process data in real time, but all that processing power is useless if people feed the machine bad data from the get go or don’t know what to do with all that information and analysis once they have it. Cognitive solutions that leverage AI can provide explanations, recommendations, and inform what future actions or outcomes might be required via their predictive nature, but it’s still a human who is feeding the beast. We are still the “intelligence” behind AI – the artificial part is being able to crunch data at a scale and time-span humans can’t achieve.
The promise of AI has been around a long time, but never went anywhere because hardware could not sustain that much data analysis. No one could capitalise on the concept. That is not the case today. Hardware has advanced to such a degree that for each new automation concept there is a company that builds the hardware necessary to realise the idea. Super-fast multi-core processors or massive storage devices are tomorrow’s recycling candidate. Cloud computing, virtualisation, faster processors – all make up the core technology of what we call AI.
In addition, the amount of data companies now churn out is almost unfathomable. Almost everything we touch is sending data to someone from smartphones, to the internet, to online processes, to set-top boxes, and on and on. Technology is everywhere and every bit of it is a data source. At the convergence of all this Big Data and mock AI technology is nothing that resembles actual sentience – it’s simply Big Intelligence. And we’ll continue to see it improve as this convergence of better programming through High Power Computing and Big Data as companies traditional working with one or the other begin to bring the two together in ever more creative applications.
We are living in a truly exciting time of data and high-performance computing. We now have the ability to take advantage of data at scale and analyse that data in real time. But we shouldn’t let the misnomer of AI scare us away from this pursuit. Let’s call Big Intelligence what it is and enjoy the power more data and advanced hardware has bestowed on the human race.
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