In tomorrow’s world, robots will be able to do everything we can. Only better.
Prince Charles has warned of the dangers of artificial intelligence, saying people should turn their noses up at the tech and favor traditional, hand-crafted objects and methods instead.
But top theoretical physicist Jim Al-Khalili says not to shun smart computers and urged schools to teach children about tech, to ease fears of a Terminator-style war between man and machine.
So who is correct?
Well, the robots are not coming — they’re already here… and we look at ways AI will eventually change every aspect of your life.
Game-playing AI created by Google-owned company DeepMind taught itself chess in less than four hours.
AlphaZero repeatedly played through billions of games, learning the rules and analyzing strategies.
It was good enough to beat the world champion chess programme, Stockfish 8. Physicist and author Max Tegmark said: “AI is poised to challenge the best human strategists even beyond game boards — for example with investment strategy, political strategy and military strategy.
Such real-world strategy problems are typically complicated by human psychology.”
Robotic sex dolls are becoming more and more lifelike and are being developed with sophisticated movements that closely mimic humans.
Some include AI and can offer an “emotional connection” by smiling and flirting with the user.
A doll called Harmony, developed by Realbotix in Los Angeles, is described as able to “deliver the most enjoyable conversation and interaction you can have with a machine.”
But Dr. Kathleen Richardson — an expert in the ethics of robotics — believes it is dangerous ground, reminding us: “In real life, women really have their own thoughts and desires.”
For more than a decade, robots have been used to perform precision tasks in operating theaters.
These robots are not self-thinking but are controlled remotely by a surgeon.
As AI develops, the robots will be equipped to perform complex tasks by themselves, including advanced diagnoses.
Algorithms will also be able to more efficiently sort through data. Tegmark says: “It is shocking how many deaths occur through data errors like mixed up medical records. We will save about ten times more lives in healthcare than we will on the roads.”
“Sadly, the main reason it’s not happening faster is because people are too afraid of privacy and data breaches.”
Machines with AI do a broader range of jobs than ever before.
Amazon is working to replace couriers with drones, proof-readers are being phased out by apps such as Grammarly and you have probably already received robocalls on behalf of telemarketers.
Programs sift data faster and more efficiently than humans. A firm called Fama uses AI to scan social media profiles of job applicants and will flag up potential risks to your company.
Jobs such as financial auditing can be carried out by specialized programs that use AI and image recognition to analyze reams of information.
The technology is being piloted by some of the UK’s largest accountancy firms.
Scientists have trained AI to write sonnets just like Shakespeare.
More than 2,600 sonnets were taken from an online database and fed into a system, which produced its own version.
When compared with the Bard, the public could not tell the difference.
Other programs have been taught to conjure up a chapter of an imagined Harry Potter book, news stories, weather reports and write-ups of football matches.
The LA Times created an app which can publish an earthquake story online as soon as a tremor is detected.
Every time you buy something online, an AI-enabled computer program logs it.
Why? So retailers can find out what else we might be interested in buying.
It’s thanks to this that recommendations on shopping sites such as Amazon are scarily accurate.
The same algorithms, which also take into account Google searches and web visits, make sure advertising online can be directly targeted.
Shoppers will soon be able to admire themselves in “smart mirrors”, switching between outfits in the changing room. They have already been trialed by Topshop and Gap.
Amazon has three US concept stores where you pick up items and go, as goods are scanned and billed automatically.
Police forces in the UK are already using tech that can direct officers to crime hotspots – essentially using AI mapping to predict where something will happen.
But officers could harness AI’s processing power even more thoroughly in the future.
Software can help solve crimes by quickly analyzing information from databases and surveillance systems.
Uses include spotting burglary patterns, identifying potential suspects or preventing the collapse of rape trials by analyzing emails or text messages.
Computers could do this sort of examination far more quickly than humans.
Auto-braking is already a form of AI that has saved lives. Sophisticated programs use sensors to anticipate a collision and apply the brakes.
An estimated 90 percent of road accidents are caused by human error, but we are on the verge of dramatically improving that statistic thanks to self-driving cars.
Tegmark said: “So far, self-driving cars do indeed have a better safety record than human drivers.
“Elon Musk envisions that future self-driving cars will not only be safer but will also earn money for their owners while they’re not needed by competing with Uber and Lyft.”
The tech already exists to develop “slaughterbots” that kill automatically without a human being in the loop.
We will simply be able to program armed drones with a photo and address, paving the way for anonymous assassination.
Tegmark says: “We already have this tech, it just needs to be miniaturized and mass produced. Criminal groups don’t have the technical wherewithal to figure out how to produce them.”
“But if the UK, US or Russia does then, of course, China will, North Korea will and before long they will be on the black market everywhere.”
“Life 3.0” by Max Tegmark, $13.00, Allen Lane publishing.
We will soon understand other languages perfectly.
The Google translate app can already translate 27 languages instantly. It can also interpret street signs, ingredient lists, instruction manuals and other texts.
Google has released $205 Pixel Buds, earphones that translate conversations in real time. Last month, Google Home smart speakers became the first piece of AI-enabled tech that could understand conversations which switch between two different languages.