Artificial Intelligence is Science Fiction Coming to Life

From self-driving cars, a toothbrush that tells you the best way to brush your teeth to voice recognition software that unlocks your phone, we now live in a world where we can’t help but think if we are in a sci-fi film.

Many technologies that exist now were only available in the past through imagination and portrayal in science fiction. If “The Jetsons” had Rosie, we now have Mahru Z helping us with our household chores. We also have the real world equivalent of Gideon from The Flash, namely Siri, Alexa and Cortana.

People who grew up watching or reading these Science fictions would have never thought they’d experience having a video conference through mobile devices, a robot vacuuming their house, talking to a computer or receiving answers from a computer.

Most of the time, we even need to pinch ourselves and be reminded that all of these are already possible because machines have become smarter.

The Back Story

Every good piece of story has a back story and for AI, it is in the great minds of mathematician Alan Turing and the other members of the Ratio Club.

In the basement room of the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, the young and passionate members of the club composed of psychologists,scientists, mathematicians and engineers met over meals and discussed concepts and experiments on cybernetics.

Turing was one of the first persons to question a machine’s capability of thinking like humans and the Ratio Club became the venue for him to express and discuss his interest on integrating the characteristics of a human brain to a machine.

But to prove that machines could think, Turing needed empirical data so he conducted various experiments and among his many experiments, he developed what is now known as the Turing Test, a test that could identify how much a machine is human-like.

Turing was way ahead of his time. The concept of “Artificial Intelligence” was not even introduced yet. It was only in 1956, two years after Turing’s untimely death that John McCarthy, who is regarded as the father of AI, coined the term Artificial Intelligence.

The Plot thickens

From McCarthy, Minsky and other renowned computer scientists, many had pursued and developed AI computer programs in the 20th century. However during these years, AI delivered lesser than what is expected of it, leading most people to think that AI is far-fetched and way too ambitious.

What steered the conversation for AI and got the attention of the general public was science fiction. Thanks to a good amount of books and series about AI, people were talking about how it would be like if AI was integrated in the real world.

Among the many works of fiction, Isaac Asimov’s “I Robot”, published in 1950, was one of the most popular and well received. With his literary works, Asimov predicted and imagined how the world would be like if robots and smart machines coexisted with humans.

Asimov also introduced the Three Laws of Robotics and with his work, Asimov inspired and influenced most researchers in the field or robotics and cybernetics.

The Climax

AI has existed since the early 1940s but it only rose to popularity in the past two decades. In the early 1990s, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning weren’t even buzz words in the tech industry and if you ask people about it, they’ll often ask if it is really possible to experience AI.

But, what really triggered the AI hype was the development of modern technology. In the 1990s, computer capabilities were limited, it only had little storage and data. When computers became faster and smarter, and was able to carry huge amounts of data, advancements in AI followed.

Everyone was at awe when Siri came out and when machines started beating world grandmasters at chess and Go. Then, people were excited by the fact that machines are getting more intelligent and are thinking more like us. As issues in the past like limited storage and data were answered, AI innovations appeared one after the other. The next thing we know, we’re bombarded with news about AI and AI-powered products everywhere.

The Plot twist

It took about 60 years for AI to be widely recognized and to gain popularity. Things that were just science fiction in the past are becoming too real. Now, people could carry around computers in their pockets and every machine is getting smarter.

From televisions to refrigerators, you could now ask your appliances questions like what movie is good to watch or what’s the recipe for your chicken dinner and you could expect a response from them.

But with the advancements in AI and machine learning, a new science fiction is being constructed. If people from the past were asking whether or not machines could think like us, now, we are asking a different question. Questions like how much more intelligent could machines get? Or will machines become as intuitive and self-conscious like Ava in Ex Machina or will it become something like Samaritan watching our every move and predicting our decisions?

Most of us envision a future with robot overlords and machines being smart enough to replicate themselves and plan for total world domination. But will it remain a science fiction or turn out to be reality in the future? We don’t know or at least, we don’t know for now.

The Moral of the Story

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”
-Isaac Asimov

Machines, AI and technology grow and develop exponentially. But, humans evolve in a linear pattern. AI-powered machines can now diagnose cancer tumors which human doctors and specialists spent years mastering. So you might think will AI replace humans? Well, like in every science fiction, it depends on whose point of view you are looking from.

Most of the AI we know today started as an absurd idea portrayed in science fiction. Like how Geordi La Forge’s VISOR in Star Trek paved the way to its ‘real’ world equivalent, eventually, giving sight back to the legally blind.

This just proves that creativity fuels us to create, innovate and invent more. Stories about intelligent machines in the past slowly have real applications in the present and it is something we should be thankful for because in the end, it is not humans versus machines. If we follow Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, it’s humans and machines versus real-world problems.

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