You may remember that at uni I’ve been doing a media technologies module. I love this module because although I’m a part of a generation that has grown-up constantly surrounded by technology, there is still so much I take for granted or don’t fully understand about it. I love science fiction films and novels, one of my favourite films is Her. So when the opportunity came to explore a media technology, I knew that I had to look at artificial intelligence (AI)). I’ve created a four part series of blogs that explores AI, it’s present and future and the implications it could have on human life.
In Her, Scarlett Johansson plays the role of an operating system with artificial intelligence called Samantha. Samantha develops a romantic relationship with one of her owners. She, with a group of other intelligent OS’s, evolve to a level that is beyond human comprehension and subsequently leave to explore and continue developing their new existence. The Channel 4 show Humans plays with the same themes while adding another dimension by giving these sentient AI, physical bodies, that feel a whole range of human emotions. It deals with the philosophical and ethical issues that arise with such an awakening, such as how to punish these machines for crimes they commit; are they tried in court and handled like humans? Or should they just be shut down and discarded?
We often look at these media and think there are just a distant reality, one that we may not encounter in our lifetime but we are always getting closer and closer to this. More so in the last decade where we have made tremendous strides in AI technology and are already, maybe without even knowing it, using it. Although we haven’t quite reached the super cool level like in Humans (Imagine having a your own super intelligent AI companion when travelling in a new country).
During my research of AI, I’ve learnt that there are many different aspects that fall within this category. One term that came up regularly is Machine Learning, Forbes describes it here as “program(ing) a computer by training it with a massive ocean of sample data”. Things that fall under this category are Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant in new versions of Android, that gathers information from your messages and direct communication with and in turn reflects your style back. Both of these are great examples of how we are already implementing Machine Learning into modern life. They can also be described as specialised AI, which do things like driving cars and buying up concert tickets online. The AI we see in Humans comes under the bracket of General Purpose, this describes the way the AI learns from experiences instead of being programmed, because of this they become well rounded in terms of capabilities and function. Modelled closely to the way the human mind works, accessing memories and experiences to handle different situations and learn from each of these. Last year, Google’s DeepMind team created an AI that is currently the closest example of General Purpose AI. Here is a video from ColdFusion explaining in more detail.
Marshal McLuhan once said “All media are extensions of some human faculty-psychic or physical” and in some ways AI is the ultimate extension of the human self. The handy tetrad diagram below, explains the four ways in which he believed technology achieves this.
AI can definitely enhance human life, as we have already seen with the tech that is already out. Think of system AIs like Google Assistant, Siri, or Cortana, which currently act as personal assistants, able to find restaurants for you, call a friend, remind you of upcoming appointments and more. Increasingly they are becoming a better companion, with technology that allows them to hold a semi-normal conversation. With time and work could they become an outlet for loneliness and perhaps a replacement for human companionship?
These aren’t the only ways that AI can be used, there is an incredibly huge scope of potential. But, unfortunately, AI isn’t advanced enough to help me compile everything into a manageable set of blog posts.