One of the most frequently asked questions I get on this subject is, “WHEN will artificial intelligence get here?”  Notice I didn’t say ‘will’ or ‘if’, but ‘when’. 

ai1Most people expect the arrival of AI to be a foregone conclusion.  The only doubt is when will they be able to buy an android that doesn’t look like a phone?

I have news for most of the waiting consumers out there: artificial intelligence is already here and has been for quite a while.  Our cars are intelligent.  Our phones are incredibly smart and intelligent.  Our toasters are artificially intelligent.  Anything with a computer chip can make decisions based on the parameters we have given it.

But, doesn’t that mean it is only doing what we tell it to do?  Yes, it does.  But, how does that make a computer chip any different than an employee?  Don’t we expect the worker to make decisions based on the rules we give them?  And, despite certain pockets of management out there, I do believe the human worker to be organically intelligent.

Perhaps, you thought we would start with Data from Star Trek?  Not quite.  Progress is done in steps.  We are not instantly transported into the future.  We must at least crawl our way out of the present.  As far back as the 1930s, science fiction dreamed of the flying car.  Except for very rare prototypes, we are still waiting.  Even further back, Leonardo Da Vinci sketched ideas of parachutes and tanks.  While those came to be, they arrived in not quite the same vision as Leonardo once drew.  Each step of imagination can let us walk into the future with a reality that we helped to create along the way.

Part of the problem may be the term artificial intelligence itself.  If we are looking for an electronic being, then we need to look for more than just intelligence.  The true being will be cognizant or aware of its existence.  Renes Descartes once mused “Cogito ergo sum” which translates to “I think, therefore I am”.  That is the best definition of awareness I have ever heard.  I prefer the term “electronically aware”.

That still leaves us with the question of when will an electronically aware artificial intelligent being exist?  Our current scientific prediction is for 2045.  That event is best described as The Singularity.  At that point in time, it is expected that the first machine will become smarter than a human.

robot1We have two different kinds of predictions of where we go from there.  Either we will live in a utopian paradise where machines will do all the work and we sip lemonade at the beach or it will be a dystopian world where humankind is not needed anymore.

My question of the utopia is: if machines are smarter, then why are they doing all the work?  For the dystopia, I wonder if we’re still smart, why aren’t we trying to set up trade between our two societies.  Something like hydroponic crops for petroleum crude?  If either side has a brain cell between them, survival can only be enhanced by working together.

From my experience, reality is always somewhere in the middle.  If either one worries you, just remember we are still waiting for the flying car.


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