Translators | A Greater Use of Expert
Systems | Research Assistants | Passing the Turing Test | Reflections on Humanity ]
Intelligence is really still in its infancy in terms of progress. Though it has
raised some interesting theories of the mind and thought, the impact of understanding the
human brain better has not made a profound influence on AI development. However, AI
has spawned some useful applications like expert systems and game AI, but the truly
pervasive use of AI is still to come as more research and improved technology surfaces in
the future. Here are a few applied innovations that AI promises in the future and
the technologies behind them.
One of the common clichés when one talks about the future is how the world is
shrinking every day. Distance used to be a barrier in travel and the invention of
the airplane changed all that. Time used to be a factor in communication since the
mail system took months to deliver a letter across the United States, but the telephone
dissolved such a hurdle. The combination of travel and communications has brought
whole nations together except now the last barrier in international relationships is
language. This is where telephone translators will change all that.
Essentially, a person from the United States says some things in English into his
telephone. Almost instantaneously, a computer intercepts the voice, translates what
was said, and synthetically generate the appropriate Japanese words to the person on the
other line. Of course, the translator would need advanced voice recognition, natural
language processing and inferencing to extract what was meant by the English-speaker, and
then synthesize a human-sounding Japanese person's voice in conversational Japanese.
To make the translator practical would require faster
processing, recognition and inference.
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With such success as a diagnostic tool in medic and mechanics presently, expert systems
will be more prevalent in other applications that require an expert with whom people can
consult with. Need to identify the perfect pet for a friend? A pet expert
system could ask some questions related to the person's personality so that it can
conclude the types of animals that would be suited for them. What kinds of dishes
can one make tonight with the food in the refrigerator? Input the foods into a cook
expert system to find out. The possibilities for expert systems are almost
endless. If expert systems are designed and built correctly, users should be able to
easily program their own expert and should make better decisions in their lives.
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The world is moving from the Industrial Age to the Information Age where the phrase
"knowledge is power" is becoming a reality. With so much information out
there, it has become harder and harder to find what is really relevant. This is
where a research assistant powered by AI can help. Not only can the assistant
understand what one is looking for which requires natural language processing, it is smart
enough to know where to look and compare what it finds to what it is looking for to see
how relevant the information is so the person doesn't have to do the 'dirty work.'
Research assistants will be an important tool in the future by keeping the world of
information from exploding into an infinite chaos of unorganized facts and figures.
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The controversy over the Turing Test will probably continue into the future, but once a
computer convincingly passes the test and becomes more and more integrated with
society, the argument between weak and strong AI will grow strong as the rest of society
becomes involved in the debate. The mind-body problem, consciousness, and other
philosophical issues will again surface and ethical questions would have to be considered
as more and more people become convinced that there is a life form existing in the
computer. However, when computers can fool another person to think it is human will
remain an elusive goal for many years to come.
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Somewhat addressed in the section "Thoughts on Thought",
the sophistication AI is acquiring will eventually force society, if not philosophers, to
reexamine the evolution of mankind and his place on earth and who he is.
Historically, man has adapted a very self-centered point of view--first, the earth was the
center of the universe because man lived on it and next, mankind are the most evolved
species living on the planet because of his intelligence. If computers can reason as
well as a person, then some people predict the end of human dominance. An even more
disheartening perspective is that if people accept the view that the mind is governed by
predictable forces which means that human thought is predictable, than it would end the
possibility of true originality and personal responsibility. In other words, the
'magic' of existence and individuality would cease to exist.
On the flip side, optimists view the consequences of AI in the future in a different
light. AI exists as the crowning achievement of human existence. It may
very well represent the next step in human evolution because he has created a new species
that is an improvement of the old. Moreover, the things AI can teach humanity about
how people think and how to improve thought and to appreciate how simple physical
processes in nature can lead to something as amazing and complex as the human and the