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What is AI? Why is it so hot all of a sudden? What will AI mean to you? Why should you take notice? For a start, it’s the technology powering Siri, Alexa and Cortana, smart home devices, driverless cars, news generation, purchase projections, fraud protection and the Facebook feature that automatically tags your friends when you upload photos.
SunTrust recently released a report that breaks down how AI works and reported in Business Intelligence.
AI is what people call computer programs that try to replicate how the human brain operates. For now, they only can replicate very specific tasks. One system can beat humans at the complicated and ancient board game called Go, for example. Lots of these AI systems are being developed, each excellent at a specific task.
AI systems all operate in basically the same way. AI systems are unique because they are set up like human brains. AI is even talked about in terms of neurons and synapses, just like the human brain. AI systems have to be trained, which is a process of adjusting these checkpoints to achieve better results. This training process takes a huge amount of computer process to fine tune. The better a system is trained, the better results you can get from it. The huge amount of processing power required to run and train AI systems is what has kept AI research relatively quiet until recently, which explains why it is now such a hot topic of conversation..
There is a famous AI contest where researchers pit computers against humans in a challenge to correctly identify photos. Humans usually are able to identify photos with about 95% accuracy in this content, and in 2012, computers were able to identify about 74% of photos correctly, according to SunTrust’s report. In 2015, computers reached 96% accuracy, officially beating humans for the first time. This was called the “big bang” of AI, according to SunTrust.
The big bang of AI was made possible by some fancy new algorithms, three specifically. These new algorithms were better ways of training AI systems, making them faster and cheaper to run. AI systems require lots of real-world examples to be trained well, like lots of cat photos for example. These cat photos also had to be labelled as cat photos so the system knew when it got the right answer from its algorithms and checkpoints. The new algorithms that led to the big bang allowed AI systems to be trained with fewer examples that didn’t have to be labelled as well as before. Collecting enough examples to train an AI system used to be really expensive, but was much cheaper after the big bang. Advances in processing power and cheap storage also helped move things along.
Since the big bang, there have been a number of huge strides in AI technology. Tesla, Google, Apple and many of the traditional car companies are training AI systems for autonomous driving. Google, Apple and Amazon are pioneering the first smart personal assistants. Some companies are even working on AI driven healthcare solutions that could personalize treatment plans based on a patient’s history.
AI technology could be as simple as making your email smarter, but it could also extend your lifespan, take away your job, or end human soldiers fighting the world’s wars. SunTrust says AI has the capability to change nearly every industry. The moves we are seeing now are just the beginnings, the low hanging fruits. Cities can become smarter, TSA might be scanning your face as you pass through security and doctors could give most of their consultations via your phone thanks to increased AI advancements.
One is for sure. AI is exciting, sometimes scary, but ultimately, here to stay. We are just starting to see the implications of the technology.
WRITTEN BY BOB PRITCHARD