The advances made in artificial intelligence (AI) applications to date have been nothing short of stunning, but futurists predict that there is much more to come. In this article, we look at some of the amazing, outrageous, and plain hard-to-believe outcomes of AI that may occur in the future.
AI refers to a computerized application enabling a robotic device of some sort to perform activity typically engaged in by intelligent creatures such as human beings. Some researchers believe that ultimately computers will be able to match and even exceed the capacity of the human brain – an event that has been dubbed the singularity.
The spectrum of AI-related fields is broad, including such areas as:
- Deep machine learning
- Virtual agents
- Natural language processing
- Neural networks
While the most astounding innovations in AI may be yet to come, there are several AI technologies already being used currently. These include facial recognition applications, sharing services such as Airbnb and Uber, self-driving cars, and digital assistants such as Siri. But AI is not used strictly for helpful applications, AI-driven military robots are being developed that can exercise a wide degree of autonomy on the battlefield. Like any other invention, AI needs to be evaluated based on the damage it can do as well as the benefits it brings.
Now, on to the predictions.
Computers Will Take Over and Run Society
Computers running society doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. While dystopian movies like The Terminator series imagine a world in which the robots have taken over and seek to destroy all humans, a more optimistic prediction is that advances in computing enable AI to run things for us. While the computers do the work, humans will have time to enjoy themselves and focus on creative tasks. If the AI singularity occurs, such a scenario could be in our future, with computers tasked with solving issues such as climate change, crime, world hunger, etc.
Every Human Will Have a Robot Helper (or Two)
While social interaction is always likely to be part of human society, we are social animals, after all, taking care of the day-to-day tasks that we humans rely on doesn’t have to be done by other humans. Increasingly, these activities could be performed by AI-driven robot helpers. Especially in the case of the elderly or disabled, who need a higher level of care, robot workers may be used to provide the needed assistance.
Beyond the humdrum tasks of helping people make it through the day, robots could be programmed to read human emotions and serve as companions as well as helpers. A number of products of this type are already on the market, including a social robot called Jibo and a companion robot named “Pepper.”
Self-driving cars already use many of the same algorithms that might be used to predict human reactions, albeit in the context of driving a car rather than expressing emotions. With virtual assistants such as Siri and Alexa becoming ever more adaptable and intuitive, the technology to make robots capable of replacing people as our helpers and companions gets closer every day.
Using Advanced Analytics to Predict the Future
High-level machine learning is currently being used to enable computers to make predictions about the future. Even in day-to-day matters, computers help us make predictions about the traffic, the stock market, the weather, and much more. Social media platforms use advanced algorithms to predict what type of material we’d like them to feature on their sites. As computers get ever more powerful, their ability to predict the future is likely to become even better. Will people use this ability to predict the future to help improve humanity or instead use it to make immense profits? Unfortunately, prediction technology is not advanced enough yet to inform us which of these futures is more likely to occur.
Human Cyborgs Will Become the Norm
Implantable technology will make human beings part human and part computer in the future, enabling people to perform tasks far beyond the ability of mere biological humans. These technological enhancements could help protect us from diseases or provide us with what might seem like superpowers today: for instance, the ability to see a great distance, or exhibit immense strength.
The modification of humans into transhumans or cyborgs may now seem like it is a great distance off, but even today we see the potential of human-machine combinations. People strapping devices like Fitbit monitors on themselves to track their heart rate or other vital signs is one example. Enhanced glasses, which offer computer-driven data to those wearing them, are another. These glasses and other devices with similar combined human-machine functionality are increasingly being used in augmented reality applications, whether on the factory floor or in training situations. Given these advances, it is not quite as difficult to envision a future where cyborgs have become the norm.
Human/AI Synthesis Will Lead to Super-Intelligence
In addition to being bolstered physically by technology that strengthens our bodies and enhances our senses, we will also be able to link our brains to computerized technology that dramatically increases the scope of human intelligence. Imagine a mind-machine link that enables a person to instantly access the entirety of recorded human knowledge in an instant. By implanting chips offering this functionality in our brains we can create super-intelligent human beings with the knowledge necessary to solve almost any problem humanity might encounter.
Entrepreneur Elon Musk has aimed at this with his new company Neuralink, which seeks to bypass the need for exterior mind-machine links and use chips inserted in the brain to establish a direct link between computer and brain. This venture has already attracted competitors, as the race to create super-intelligent humans begins in earnest.
The Future is Closer Than You Think
While these predictions may seem like they are many years from coming to fruition, if they ever do, such a future may be closer than many realize. The breathtaking pace of technological change has made a reality of many functions that were once considered merely science fiction. From author Jules Verne’s submerged vehicles, later realized as submarines, to Star Trek’s remote talking devices, now ubiquitous in the form of mobile phones, the dreams of futurists of all types have come to life faster than one might think.
While the most ambitious predictions given here, if ultimately proven feasible, may be decades or centuries away from becoming reality, many other AI-driven applications are much closer to being implemented. Autonomous vehicles, as referenced earlier, are close to becoming a reality with development underway by several companies around the world. AI robots are currently being deployed in a number of augmented reality projects to improve efficiency at factories and other workplaces. Finally, virtual reality applications have grown in popularity and power, enabling them to immerse participants in the alternate realities they create, opening the potential of making those imagined realities real as the technology behind these simulations becomes ever more powerful.
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