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Big Ideas: Artificial Intelligence  | Milton Park

Published on: 20/07/2018

Presenting a series on the big ideas shaping the future of the world, we look at the world of artificial intelligence – computers thinking for themselves. 

Big Ideas: Artificial Intelligence

In a new series inspired by the work of the brilliant companies based at Milton Park, we look at the Big Ideas which are influencing the evolution of everything from scientific research, to mundane aspects of our everyday lives.

This month, we’re looking at an idea which has quickly moved from the pages and screens of science fiction to a reality whose future is in heated contention: Artificial Intelligence.

What is the Definition of Artificial Intelligence?

AI is the idea of software or machines which can create intelligence by themselves, whether this is through decision making based on data inputted by humans or other means.

This is often defined by a machine which, when given goals to achieve by a human agent, is able to achieve them through the fastest and most successful way possible. This is created by mimicking cognitive functions found in the human brain, such as logical problem solving.  

How is Artificial Intelligence Used Today?

Though artificial intelligence is often linked to (often dystopian) visions of the future found in science fiction, it is in fact already a part of our everyday lives.

When we make a search on the internet, we do it through the Google algorithm, which uses artificial intelligence to quickly make the decision on which is the best website to suit your enquiry. It is artificial intelligence which allows us to speak to our friends as an animated unicorn on the iPhone X. AI has been applied to everything from developing ground-breaking medical equipment to creating art, with mixed results.

One of the most famous modern AIs is AlphaGoZero, an AI developed by DeepMind to play the ancient Chinese strategy game ‘Go’. An early version of the AI was able to beat the Go world champion with a data set of the results of over 10,000 games of Go. However, AlphaGoZero taught itself to beat the world champion having only learned the rules of the game. This is a huge breakthrough in the development of AI, and an indication that soon software will be able to teach itself with fewer inputs from humans.

What is the Future of Artificial Intelligence?

There are moral concerns linked to the evolution of artificial intelligence. The discovery of ‘artificial general intelligence’, sometimes known as ‘full AI’, is a large aim of a lot of artificial intelligence work. This is artificial intelligence which perform the full range of cognitive human abilities. How an AI would display this is a subject of hot debate, but the famous Turing Test (where a computer can fool a human into thinking they are talking to a fellow human) is a good example.

Many companies are working on AIs which complete one specific task, but over 40 organisations across the world are also dedicated to the task of achieving Full AI.

There are many ethical dilemmas connected to AI, such as the danger to humans, making sure AI software understands the ethics of humans, or even the danger of machines making humanity obsolete in the distant future. 

This is just touching the surface when it comes to the fascinating world of AI. If you want to read further, we recommend:

Wired magazine’s complete guide to AI

The famous Open Letter on Artificial Intelligence, signed by Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and other significant figures in the science community on both how AI is transforming for better and worse

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