For all of the visions of robots taking over the world, stealing jobs and outpacing humans in every facet of existence, we haven’t seen many cases of AI drastically changing industries or even our day-to-day lives just yet. For this reason, media and AI deniers alike question whether true broad-scale AI even exists. Some go as far as to conclude that it doesn’t.
The answer is a bit more nuanced than that.
Current AI applications can be broken down into three loose categories: Transformative AI, DIY (Do It Yourself) AI, and Faux AI. The latter two are the most common and therefore tend to be what all AI is judged by.
The everyday AI applications we’ve seen most of so far are geared toward accessing and processing data for you, making suggestions based on it, and sometimes even executing very narrow tasks. Alexa turning on your your music, telling you what’s happening in your day, and how the weather is outside is a good example. Another is your iPhone predicting a phone number for a contact you don’t already have saved.
While these applications might not live up to the image of AI we have in our heads, it doesn’t mean they’re not AI. It just means they’re not all that life-changing.
The kind of AI that will “take over the world” — or at least, have the most dramatic effect on how people live and work — is what I think of as Transformative AI. Transformative AI turns data into insights and insights into instructions. Then, instead of simply delivering those instructions to the user so he or she can make more informed decisions, it gets to work, autonomously carrying out an entire complex process on its own, based on what it’s learned and continues to learn, along the way.
This type of AI isn’t yet ubiquitous. The most universally-known manifestation of it is likely the self-driving car. Self-driving cars are an accessible example of what it looks like for a machine to take in constantly-changing information, process and act on it, and thereby completely eliminate the need for human participation at any stage.
Driving is not a fixed process that is easily automated. (If it were, AI wouldn’t be necessary.) While there is indeed a finite set of actions involved in driving, the data set the AI must process shifts every single time the passenger gets into the car: road conditions, destination, route, oncoming and surrounding traffic, street lanes, street closures, proximity to neighboring vehicles, turning radiuses, a pedestrian stepping out in front of the car, and so on. The AI must be able to take all of this in, make a decision about it, and act on it right then and there, just like a human driver would.
This is Transformative AI, and we know it’s real because it’s already happening.
Now, imagine the implications of this technology…
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