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Cape Town Picnic (II): Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation.

When preparing the topic for today, I thought… 24 years ago when I got my B.S. in Civil Engineering, if I was requested to give my opinion about Artificial Intelligence (AI), I would have gone to a library and find the books available about AI.


Computers used in 1995. IBM PC 5150.

Probably I would have searched in the library system and chosen at least 10 or 15 books, each of them weighing 1 kilo each. Then, I would have sorted each book index, looking for the right chapters, read them, take notes, and return back home to pass my notes using a huge desktop computer with a monochrome monitor. At that time the mobile phones did not exist in my country. In addition, I would have to return at least two or three times to the library (because the library did not have internet access), and the whole search would have taken me a week in total to write some paragraphs. netscape-heroIn the year 1994, El Salvador did not have internet service providers as well. Afterwards, I was super lucky to be blessed with the opportunity to study outside my nation, I had for the first time an email account, by the year 1996. I remember I resigned my engineering job in San Salvador and joined NYU for a summer full-time immersion Business English course. I was preparing myself to take the GRE and GMAT tests. NYU granted one email account to me for some months.   In addition, that was the first time I could use the internet at the NYU computer labs. We utilized the Netscape Navigator version 3.0 (Google did not exist at that time).

Now, in the year 2017, if we want to learn about Artificial Intelligence, we googled the term, and in less than one second we found 122,000,000 articles or results. If we go to YouTube and type “artificial intelligence”, we will find 4,210,000 results. Which means there is an equal number of inhabitants of the size of Milan City Population or the population of Panama who has created or shared a video about AI on YouTube.

By sharing with you this comparison story, we can see how the world has changed in 25 years.internet users in the world I have told you many times I am not a techie expert. But over the years I have used the tech tools available in the market. During the year 2000, I worked as a pioneer in e-commerce when the world had only 360,983,512 internet users. Today we are 3,885,567,619 internet users. I am also a traditional weirdo when it comes to my mobile gadget gear. Believe me, still, I have not switched to an iPhone yet.

I love my Blackberry Classic, simply because I find it beautiful and I hope to buy the best Blackberry Passport model in the future.  But that doesn´t mean I don´t know what is happening. Moreover, when someone asks me an opinion, and even if I don´t have all the details in place. I always try to find out answers which satisfy my curious appetite. And after finding 122 million results in Google about AI,  sincerely, I did not have the time to read each of the websites. I bet, neither you have the time to do it. We do some skim reading over some relevant websites, and maybe we navigate searching for another 10 or 15 google page results (the most visited ones). And even after finding the right webpages, we also do not have the time to read every single article published there. Why? Because we do not have the time. Isn´t it sad?.  So much data on us.

I wonder if there are several AI technologies inside a machine or a robot which can help me to do my writings? And this robot will be called my Smart Assistant or “Smart Internet Researcher”. He has learned to google search, read, analyze, filter information, choose the right websites from the right experts, and dismiss the useless or irrelevant sources. I wonder if my future “Smart Internet Researcher”, after performing his google competitive intelligence duties will proceed to big data filtering, do statistical analysis, write in three languages (Spanish, English, and French) and provide to me the final report about AI in two pages max. And if he does it in 2 hours max, that is fantastic. And on top of that, he is programmed to do house chores, and he can also do the laundry! Finally, my “Smart Internet Researcher” will read the report, and I can interact and talk to him. I can correct what he did not write well and send him to rewrite the report. Can you see where are we going with the term AI? Are we planning to live as such?. What do YOU think? Maybe I will lose my competitive advantage when my Smart Internet Researcher learns to copy my writing style and I will end up without my position as a blog writer until the end of times. Hmmm… Aren´t we worried?

John McCarthy defined the Term Artificial Intelligence or AI in 1956. He coined the term AI as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines”. If we visit any of the traditional dictionaries, we find the following definition: “AI is a branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers”, or “AI is the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior”.  Other definitions I have read over the weekend are “AI is the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans”. Therefore, we can find more than a million of definitions of AI.

Nevertheless, with so much data around us. Let´s go to the basics, as I always like to do it: What is the AI definition I like the most? To be honest, I was thinking why the scientists coined the term “artificial intelligence”. If I were John McCarthy I wouldn´t name this science field as AI. I think the name itself is scary. It alerts anyone. When you hear this name, just to mention AI… that frightens anyone who believes in humanity. AI Imperial college.jpgThink about the most horrible name you can find for a person, and then try to baptize your best friend with it. I think your BFF will erase you from his or her list of friends. However, at the time John McCarthy baptized the term, I think he used it as a technology tag because he was thinking in a specific “functional” context: the capability of the machines to replicate or imitate human intelligence. I understand the functionality of his definition. However, I don´t have a clue why the term AI did not evolve to a better name when the time passed by. Sixty years later, today I consider it is a blurry term.  In addition, that definition of Artificial Intelligence has originated the most horrible misunderstandings and horrendous movies about super criminal robots, which will govern our planet, and will make us their slaves in the future.

Nevertheless, since I am extremely respectful of the scientists and academic experts who have dedicated their lives and their whole energy into this topic, I have arrived at a point of accepting the term AI even though I don´t like it.  will AI replace meEven with an outstanding “machine learning” technology in place,  we are still the source of all. I hope and pray my future “Smart Internet Researcher” will never replace my right to become a writer. “Human intelligence has no match in the biological and the artificial world for sheer versatility, with the abilities to reason, achieve goals, understand and generate language, create art and music, write histories, love and have babies”. In addition, human intelligence has the capacity to reflect, turn the page, reset and start all over again. Out of the loop. We can do it. And we are capable of that. Switch paths from one way to another one. We can change without algorithms.

Some define Intelligence as the ability to learn, understand and think about things. Animals can learn, understand up to a certain limit, but their brains are not developed to do what human beings can do. At least that is what we were taught. That is why God granted us with the role to administer and rule the planet.  It is good to be reminded of our role in the Universe when talking about Artificial Intelligence.

Major research universities devote departments to AI studies, and technology companies such as Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM, and Microsoft and many Asian companies have spent heavily to explore AI applications they regard as critical to their futures.

Do not forget, China and other Asian Countries have invested and will invest in AI research. The majority of Asian computer science engineers have studied in the best engineering programs in the world since decades ago. When studying my second master degree at Cornell, I do remember to have seen more than 50% of all engineering courses full of Asian students. And this happened in many well-recognized universities. A long time ago, the Chinese people understood the key for their development was to prepare their people very well in the best international schools. There is no doubt about Asian AI interests, AI startup investments and AI research.

When I was reading the different articles about AI from the MIT Technology Review, I found one AI definition that I liked at one report “One Hundred Year Study on AI at Stanford University” (AI100). (This report is the first in the planned series of studies that will continue for at least 100 years. “The seventeen-member Study Panel, comprised of experts in AI from academia of different top universities, corporate laboratories and industry, and AI-savvy scholars in law, political science, policy, and economics, was launched in mid-fall 2015. The participants represent diverse specialties and geographic regions, genders, and career stages”).

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a science and a set of computational technologies that are inspired by—but typically operate quite differently from—the ways people use their nervous systems and bodies to sense, learn, reason, and take action”.

AI enables a constellation of mainstream technologies that are having a substantial impact on everyday lives.  Then we have to ask ourselves, which are the AI technologies already in use or in research stage? Where do we stand up with AI today? Visiting the Gartner Hype Cycle for Artificial Intelligence 2017, it was interesting to me to find the results.  See the slides below  (if you can´t read the tiny letters, print the PDF version please):

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If you wish to download the latter presentation in PDF, you can click here: Eliescalante Cape Town Picnic II Other Technologies AI.

In addition, the Stanford expert group who wrote the AI100 Report has defined 8 AI domains: AI-Graphic-NEWTransportation, Healthcare, Home-Service Robots, Education, Employment and Workplace, Public Safety and Security, Entertainment, Low-resource communities. I would add the defense-military domain too. According to the AI100 team, “each domain faces varied AI-related challenges, including:

  1. The difficulty of creating safe and reliable hardware for sensing and affecting (transportation and service robots),
  2. The difficulty of smoothly interacting with human experts (healthcare and education),
  3. The challenge of gaining public trust (low-resource communities and public safety and security),
  4. The challenge of overcoming fears of marginalizing humans (employment and workplace) and
  5. The risk of diminishing interpersonal interaction (entertainment).

thank you Robotic assistant“Some of the domains from the AI100 report are primarily business sectors, such as transportation and healthcare, while others are more oriented to consumers, such as entertainment and home service robots. Some cut across several economic sectors and industries such as employment-workplace and low-resource communities.
In each domain, even as AI continues to deliver important benefits, it also raises important ethical and social issues, including privacy concerns. Robots and other AI technologies have already begun to displace jobs in some sectors.  And as a society, we are now at a crucial juncture in determining how to deploy AI-based technologies in ways that promote, not hinder, democratic values such as freedom, equality, and transparency”.

Tomorrow we will continue with the AI domains and AI recent trends.  These trends drive the currently “hot” areas of AI research into both fundamental methods and application areas. Stay tuned. We will continue with our Cape Town Picnic…



Source References:

Disclaimer: All the pictures or videos shown on this blog are not mine. I do not own any of the lovely photos posted unless otherwise stated.



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