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) …
"Made for Love," which is now streaming on HBO Max, opens on a vast expanse of desert, empty save for a geometric building in the distance. A lid on the ground is unlatched, and out pops a woman in a sequinned dress, gasping for breath, her hair drenched with water and a little blood. The woman is Hazel Green, and she is portrayed by Cristin Milioti, a strongly expressive actor who has become known for deploying her feral intellect to outsmart male villains in science-fiction thrillers. If you have seen Milioti take down a video-game dictator in the "Black Mirror" episode "USS Callister," or hack a time-loop purgatory in the 2020 comedy "Palm Springs," then you might be able to guess the story of "Made for Love," even before Hazel raises her middle finger at the structure on the horizon. The place is clearly the source of some terror--one that is futuristic yet eerily familiar.
Ursula K. Le Guin's 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness is about a planet where the genetically-engineered inhabitants randomly become male or female for a few days each month. Science fiction professor Lisa Yaszek says that the book is one of the genre's most important explorations of gender. "This stuff was all in the air, so I think that Le Guin is definitely thinking about it at the right time," Yaszek says in Episode 464 of the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast. "No one had really put it together into a sustained novel--well, I think some people had, but they hadn't been published yet. She was definitely the first to the punch. So this is the first person to pick up some things that were beginning to happen in some of the edgier, more avant-garde science fiction."
Intelligent Automation (IA) is one of the trending buzzwords of our times. Bill Gates believed automation to be a double-edged sword when he said: "Automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. IA lies at the intersection of robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and business process management (BPM). But before you think HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, J.A.R.V.I.S. from Iron Man or Terminator 2: Judgment Day scenarios, first, a little context. IA is not new; automated manual processes have been in existence since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.
Artificial intelligence – the ability of machines to use massive amounts of data and computing power to mimic such human attributes as reasoning – is transforming our world. But is higher education keeping up? The answer will play a major role in determining whether the United States will meet the challenge from China and elsewhere. We are well beyond the days when AI was limited to such science fiction as the famously petulant computer "Hal" in the film "2001: A Space Odyssey." AI now plays a major role in healthcare diagnostics and treatment, transportation, robotics, finance, entertainment, and in higher education itself.
AI systems can be found in the smartphone in your pocket and are becoming increasingly important – and ever more powerful – in our day-to-day lives. It's a theme we have previously explored in the article AI Is All Around Us. And in the article AI – Two Letters, Many Meanings, we clarified that these kinds of systems are also referred to as narrow AI. Narrow AI systems are very specialized – hence they are very efficient in performing the tasks for which they are designed, easily outperforming humans in doing so. However, these systems fail to solve problems outside of their assigned functionality, and struggle to transfer knowledge from one field to another.
Humanity has migrated to subaquatic domes to escape the lethal consequences of a vastly deteriorated ozone layer. Tremendous advances in solar power have made this shift possible, and an android underclass provides maintenance labor. Sentient but without rights, they are manufactured with organs that can be harvested by humans. Gradually, Momo grows enlightened to the oppression of androids, connecting the dots between a surgery she had as a child and the disappearance of her childhood best friend. There's an awful lot going on in this short work: new religions form in this future world, the Pacific Ocean territories are divided between countries like the United States and corporations like Toyota, and then there are the peculiar skin treatments at Momo's salon.
They drilled the hole in my skull in a medical tent squeezed into what used to be a server room. There were empty racks still bolted to the walls. They walked me in and laid me down, face first, on what I'm pretty sure was just a massage table, and fed me into a surgical robot that looked like a giant sewing machine. There wasn't much else in there: a couple of laptops hooked up to a big touchscreen, an industrial air scrubber. Everything was plumbed into a mess of power and network cables that disappeared up into square black holes left by displaced polystyrene ceiling tiles.
Embedded in the narrative DNA of the new Netflix movie Stowaway is one of the most iconic and controversial science-fiction short stories ever published, "The Cold Equations," by Tom Godwin. Like "The Cold Equations," Stowaway is the story of a spaceship journey that hits a snag when an additional passenger is discovered onboard. The ship can't complete its trip with the extra drain on its resources, so somebody has to go out the airlock. "The Cold Equations" first appeared in the August 1954 edition of Astounding magazine, whose editor, John W. Campbell Jr., played a major role in defining the genre of "hard science fiction"--that is, stories fundamentally concerned with the accurate depiction of science and technology. According to legend, Campbell sent the story back to Godwin several times because the author kept trying to find a way for the characters to wriggle out of the story's central dilemma and achieve a happy ending.
Every year there is some version of this remembrance on the internet, dated January 25th and full of science fiction references and doom-saying. This is the 2021 version. Today marks the 100th anniversary of the first use of the term "robot" to describe a non-human, artificial being. Today's robots are built a bit different, but nonetheless, there's history to be heard. The robots as named in Karel Capek's 1921 play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) are more similar in design and function to Star Trek's Data than most of the robots that populate our factories or learn to jump at Boston Dynamics.
A part of what we see in science fiction movies will soon become a reality, thanks to artificial intelligence. Every time you saw people talking to holograms in sci-fi movies and thought to yourself "that would be awesome to have", you just might be closer to that future. Smartphones will soon be able to create photorealistic 3D holograms with an AI model developed by a research team at MIT. This system determines the best way to generate holograms from a sequence of input images. This fascinating technology could have applications for VR and AR headsets.