If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
The macro effects of the coronavirus impact are undeniable: Tens of thousands of lives lost, mass unemployment, life seemingly suspended in midair. But the pandemic's impacts have also rippled down to the minutiae of daily life, like social media behavior and messages on dating apps. Uncertainty is now an inescapable presence. As someone who's single, I often toil over what sex and dating will be like "after this is all over," when and if it's ever really over. While no one can know for sure, of course, I decided to ask futurists -- people who stare uncertainty in the face for a living -- for their thoughts.
How often do you receive a message and wonder, "Did a person really write this?" When receiving a message online, it can often be difficult to discern whether it came from a human or a chatbot. Given the rapid rise in automated forms of communication, it would be foolish to assume that words attached to a name and face are in fact human. On the same token, our emails and messages on social platforms are filled with general platitudes, formulaic personalizations, and responses that seem reminiscent of an if this, then that (IFTTT) equation. We typically chalk this up as a win for technologists, who have been busy adding linguistic nuances and flourishes to how chatbots interact with humans.
When Andrew Kaplan reminisces, his engrossing tales leave the impression that he's managed to pack multiple lives into a single existence: globe-trotting war correspondent in his 20s, a member of the Israeli army who fought in the Six-Day War, successful entrepreneur and, later, the author of numerous spy novels and Hollywood scripts. Now -- as the silver-haired 78-year-old unwinds with his wife of 39 years in a suburban oasis outside Palm Springs -- he has realized he would like his loved ones to have access to those stories, even when he's no longer alive to share them. Kaplan has agreed to become "AndyBot," a virtual person who will be immortalized in the cloud for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. If all goes according to plan, future generations will be able to interact with him using mobile devices or voice computing platforms such as Amazon's Alexa, asking him questions, eliciting stories and drawing upon a lifetime's worth of advice long after his physical body is gone. Someday, Kaplan -- who playfully refers to himself as a "guinea pig" -- may be remembered as one of the world's first "digital humans."
Your purchase helps support NPR programming. We've been talking to robots for a while now. In the decade or so since Siri and her compatriots first appeared, we've all gotten pretty used to having conversations with computers in various forms. While your Alexa doesn't look much like a Cylon (the scary metal kind or hotty flesh kind) now, it seems like it's just a matter of time of time before we'll be talking with all kinds of robots -- including those that look just like us. Time, robots and conversations are at the heart of David Ewing Duncan's new book Talking to Robots: Tales from Our Human-Robot Futures.
Academically, he is using them to understand the mechanics of person-to-person interaction. But his true quest is to untangle the ineffable nature of connection itself. It is summer 2002, mid-morning in a university research lab on the edge of Osaka, Japan. Two girls--both dressed in pale yellow, with child-puffy cheeks, black shoulder-length hair, and bangs--stand opposite each other under fluorescent lights. More precisely: One is a girl, 5 years old; the other is her copy, her android replica.
They bought chocolate, flowers, greeting cards, and made dinner reservations. They booked hotel nights and long weekends. It's an industry that is worth an estimated $20.7 billion in the US alone. Presumably, some of these couples intend to have sex as a result of all this planned romancing on the big day. But the reality of relationships of any duration between any couple is that sexual intimacy isn't always planned.
Gus, a 19-year-old homeschooled Christian from Joliet, Illinois, is trawling Facebook. He's just recovered from a debilitating bout of depression, and he's looking for someone to talk to. Through an online personality test, he finds a match: Jiyun, a 20-year-old from Korea, who moved to New York City with her family for her brother's cancer treatment. Gus messages her, and they begin chatting. "I started to fall for him when I saw these tagged videos on Facebook," Jiyun reveals in Nancy Schwartzman's short documentary, xoxosms.
I recently met a young woman named Wild Rose on an online chat forum. We struck up a conversation and within the first five minutes, Wild Rose – who is married, has a daughter, and lives in Texas with her in-laws – started telling me about her lover, a man called Saeran. Saeran, she told me, is the illegitimate son of a politician who had grown up with an abusive mother. He is handsome, has white blond hair, golden eyes, a large tattoo on his shoulder. Wild Rose said that when she first met him, her "heart literally ached" and her cheeks "flooded with blood". She then paused and added: "But I don't think Saeran loves me the way I love him.
Everyone has an opinion about Magic Leap. It's either a revolutionary augmented reality company that could change the face of entertainment, or it's emblematic of everything wrong with the technology industry -- an over-hyped, multi-billion dollar pipe dream. Last week, we saw the first impressions of the company's long-awaited headset, which splashed a bit of reality on the company's hype cycle. Now that we have a better sense of what Magic Leap's $2,295 hardware is capable of, we can take a step back and consider what the company is actually trying to accomplish. In a brief demonstration, I found the Magic Leap One headset much lighter than I expected, even though it looks like a pair of '80s sci-fi goggles.
While some cry foul and worry about the woes of a'useless class,' as the historian Yuval Noah Harari puts it, others welcome widespread automation because they consider most current human labour mind-numbing. The economist David Graeber even speaks of'bulls**t jobs,' claiming that capitalism has created a system of faux jobs that we only maintain so that corporate overlords and supervisors remain in power and control, while at the same time providing workers with a fake sense of value and meaning. Graeber cites a study that says only 20 percent of all employees believe their work makes a meaningful contribution to the world, a number that appears to correlate with Gallup's finding that only 15 percent workers worldwide are fully engaged at work. "We were dreaming of technology making us more human only to realise that it may have turned us into machines ourselves." Narrowly focused on scaling efficiencies, digital technology has not alleviated this sentiment.