There is one ongoing news story and one technology whose growth and development has the potential to profoundly alter the world’s business environment in far reaching and unexpected ways. This is the emergence of true artificial intelligence (AI). In my opinion, no business story and no technology is more exciting because it has the potential to rescue us from our many severe problems, from finding the cure to cancer to the solution to our energy problems to the truly optimum and provably most rational strategy for any company.
Mere humans can deal with 3 - 7 ideas at once and the processing speed of the human brain is estimated to be about 100 million MIPS (millions of instructions per second). Because of Moore's Law, computer processing speed doubles every eighteen months or so, following a long standing exponential pattern. What will happen when AI machines acquire 10 times this power? 100? 1,000? 1,000,000? See:
There are very few 'new things under the sun.' AI is one of them. If it fulfills its promise of creating truly sentient intelligence then a new phenomenon will arise that will be unprecedented. This is because the very first task of an AI machine that exceeds human intelligence ("super-intelligence") will be to design an even more powerful machine.
Machine intelligence will explode exponentially, until it reaches a new physical limit which will be completely unrelated to the anatomical limits which ultimately constrain human intelligence. The speed of light is likely to be that new limit. Imagine an AI machine the size of the moon. Its incredible and awesome capabilities would, still, be limited by the speed of light. Omniscience in real time is physically impossible because of this limit and, therefore, even the very best AI machines of the far future will always fail to achieve true godhood. But such machines will become the ultimate source of expertise, the new oracles of truth, and they will give an entirely new meaning to the ancient phrase Deus Ex Machina. John von Neumann, one of the creators of the modern electronic computer, was one of the first scientists to realize the true destiny of computers.
Popular fancy loves to imagine that the AI machines of the future will be evil and menacing. Few dare to consider the opposite and far more disturbing possibility: that future advanced machine intelligence will be better than us, wiser, kinder, more ethical, and that we humans will stand in awe before a superhuman courtesy gratuitously bestowed on ungrateful beneficiaries.
AI will be like the one person who can see in a world of blind people. It will be like the one rocket ship in a world that thinks jogging is fast. As others have noted, it will be the last purely human invention. I like to believe AI will incorporate the very best of us and thereby become the last true refuge of idealism, and a force for good. With AI we dare to dream of something better than homo sapiens.
Here are some of the beautiful ways AI is being used currently:
(1) Several labs have built robots that teach autistic children with amazing patience and persistence. The robots never get tired and never give up on a child. Never. Can this be said about people? See:
(2) Google, in a bold move, has designed a car that drives itself. Seven prototypes were cruising around San Francisco in 2010. About 35,000 people are killed each year in car crashes and thousands more are injured. The AI cars of the future will do better than this. See:
(3) Around the world researchers are reverse-engineering the human brain so its functions may be copied and improved. We can be highly confident AI will create entirely new markets for new products and services that don't exist now merely because they have not yet even been imagined. See: http://projects.nytimes.com/smarter-than-you-think/
(4) In 2011 IBM's Watson became the first computer in history with natural language processing ability sufficient to enable it to beat Jeopardy world-champions. The implications and effects of computers that will be able to converse normally with people has not yet been appreciated.
For a comprehensive treatment of what these technological advances will mean see Ray Kurzweil's 2005 book "The Singularity Is Near"
Andrew McAfee, a national expert in information technology and professor of business at Harvard Business School has published an important book on how computers will displace white collar workers. See:
Governments in Europe and the United States are proposing a decade-long scientific project to map the human brain. This work would be modeled on the highly successful U.S. Human Genome Project, which sequenced the DNA of human beings. See:
And visit this site for a concise summary of Technological Singularity:
Here is an update on the next great advance in Artificial Intelligence:
I was extremely pleased to learn recently (July 2013) that IBM's Watson, the smartest computer in the world at present, has been given a new task. Watson is being used as a research tool to help diagnose and treat many forms of cancer at New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering cancer facility. Watson can learn and process millions of articles, clinical trials, and research studies. See:
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