I recently downloaded a new app - Cleo. Cleo is my personal finance tracker, she tells me my bank balance, what the 'damage' was at the weekend, and how much I've spent eating out this month. She'll send me pie charts, dashboards and, if I ask for it - a GIF of a dancing animal!
Cleo is an example of a new generation of AI 'bots' starting to play an ever-increasing role in our daily lives as we progress further into the tech driven 21st Century. Although AI may seem a fairly new phenomenon, it has in fact been around for years, and it all began in the 60s with ELIZA.
ELIZA was the first 'chat bot' created by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1964, built to help conduct initial psychiatric interviews with patients. The ‘bot’ required a lot of manual work and Weizenbaum programmed ELIZA by running keywords with rules that gave a diagnostic output. However, the programme was stopped after two short years - users were getting confused; forgetting they were talking to a computer.
The First Robotic Chess Computer
In the early 1990s the first robotic chess computer was built, and even though it was another 6 years before it beat a human opposition, it was still a major achievement in the world of AI. After ongoing improvements that enabled the machine to calculate over 10,000 moves in under a second, the first robot to beat a top human chess player was 'Deep Blue'. The robot won in a match against world champion Garry Kasparov in 1996. Despite causing a dent in Kasparov’s pride, this momentous robotic win represented big steps for AI.
Autonomous cars are another great example of new robotic technology that isn’t quite as new as it seems. It’s a large misconception that self-driving cars are a new phenomenon which have only broken the surface in recent years. In fact, VaMoRs was the first technology to initiate autonomous vehicles all the way back in 1987. VaMoRs did this by setting cameras and micro processing modules in an old Sedan to detect objects in the road. The system was successful up to 60 mph along Germany's Autobahn highway. Despite still having a long way to go, Apple and Google, along with a few other large car companies, are working on autonomous technology advancement. Experts predict the first commercial autonomous vehicle to be available to the public by as soon as 2020.
It's been a slow burn for AI advancements, but we are now seeing AI technology progress at an accelerated rate. It is becoming a regular part of our day to day lives.
So, what about the future of AI?
Experts have predicted that within the next 20 years things such as Cyborgs (human ability enhancing mechanics), robotic crime prevention and virtual friends will all become a part of mainstream culture. AI is becoming intuitive, it’s learning from our interactions and will soon be able to tailor its responses individually and precisely. It is no longer a human programme, but an intuitive machine (do images of the Matrix start to spring to mind here?).
The next few years will be an exciting time for AI, we’re on the precipice of incredible self learning technology. Thoughts and emotions in machines are hard to imagine, but 50 years ago so were financial bots who help you to save money and send animations based on your current mood.
However, there are concerns regarding the future of AI. Will we take it too far? Will its effects on society eventually turn from positive to negative? Will our obsession with tech and the future, in time, come back to bite us? (Cue Black Mirror theme tune here). These are questions only time can answer.