What I know about AI. March 23, 2017

When I was a kid, my older sister and I would watch Star Trek with my mom. Captain Kirk and the Starship Enterprise, was our glimpse into the future. That future always intrigued me.

“To boldly go where no man has gone before.” You might say, being exposed to some of those concepts at such an early age, I was destined to work on challenges that disrupt the future.

I am currently the Founder and CEO of Universal Linguistics or ULIQ for short. We provide a platform to enable customers to connect on-demand with live interpreters and translators who speak the local language and the desired foreign language; all in real time. We then leverage these crowd-sourced live calls to train/augment/improve our Narrow AI solution, thus attempting to enhance the accuracy and speech dialect of simultaneous machine translations; We’re building the Arabic Siri.

For example, let’s say you move to another country where you do not speak the local language or don’t speak it well. Imagine you find yourself in a situation, either for work or pleasure, where language is a barrier. I.e. ordering food, getting pulled over by the police, talking to a co-worker, using an automated system, the list goes on and on. At ULIQ, we are building smart solutions that augment the way we communicate with people (or machine) who speak a different language. Therefore, enabling each person to communicate naturally with each other, regardless of mother tongue and with the perfect dialect as spoken at home.

Before we can further this discussion around what I know about AI, it is important to understand what is AI. What are some examples of AI? Where it is today and where is it heading? Why should you care? And how do you build it?

On a side note: this article is a high-level overview of what I know about AI. The subfields of AI are very wide, deep, and can be extremely complex depending on the desired perspective.

Therefore, in a quest to understand what AI is, we must first define AI in its simplest form. “Software that writes it’s own software”. By that definition, the field of AI is commonly categorized as either Narrow AI (Weak AI) or General AI (Strong AI). In other words, primitive Narrow AI is an email spam filter system, your Facebook newsfeed, etc. All of these examples operate within limited rule-based logic. While more advanced narrow AI can be categorized as statistical learning systems, that is for example systems that understand human speech, translation between languages, facial recognition, or even self-driving cars. These systems are still designed and trained to achieve a set of particular tasks. For example, with ULIQ, we define rules on how to handle source to target language pairings. These training datasets are used to evaluate the machine learning algorithms. Then robust test harness and baseline accuracy from which to improve and spot check algorithms. Therefore, Narrow AI is regarded as NOT having genuine intelligence.

In contrast, General AI is the future of AI and it is closely regarded as a system that has genuine intelligence, i.e. a full range of human cognitive abilities. The key difference here is intelligence.

Intelligence while seemingly subjective, many AI researchers have categorized intelligence into a handful of meaningful dimensions including perception, learning, abstraction, reasoning, planning, and communication all integrated to achieve results.

So, why should you care? Good question. While you may feel established, successful and secure in your current career today, if any of your work seems tedious, repetitive, cyclical, well there is probably already a commercial AI solution that can do all of those tasks for you today and do it even better than you can!

I guarantee you, the common buzzword you hear in you’re jobs today is “optimization”, “streamlining”, “efficiency”, etc… What if I told you there are successful companies today that use AI chatbots to perform 80% of all work. On the bright side, someone built those chatbots.

Now let’s talk about a traditional job for our children. What does that even look like?

We currently live in what is commonly referred to as the “information age” where technological advancements seek to eliminate mundane tasks and increase human efficiency. We are now transitioning into what is commonly referred to as the “conceptual age” where further technological advancements in AI will cease to merely aide humans in their jobs and will perform the entire scope of work without human intervention. When you were in school, you were competing with a couple hundred students for the same job. Your children will be in competition with a couple thousand students as well as AI. But don’t panic!

At the recent World Government Summit, Elon Musk touched on a viewpoint, that over the foreseeable future the adoption of augmenting humans with machines will increasingly grow, and the need for humans to become a multi-planetary species will become more of a mainstream idea, similar to how Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality has become mainstream. As Star Trekkie as that may sound, why not? In a world where machines aid humans in every step of daily life, it could provide freedom for humans to be more exploratory and creative. It could fundamentally redefine how we live our lives. From a philosophical perspective, it could even revolutionize our perspective on the evolution of Earth species, but that’s another discussion altogether.

So how do you build it? First, by not reinventing the wheel. Both Google and Facebook are strong supporters of Open Source and make a lot of their work freely available for anyone to use or modify however they feel. However, this will require you to have some proficiency in Octave/Matlab, Python, Euphoria, etc… If you’re interested in learning more about these topics, search on Coursera.org.

IBM, Google, and Microsoft are also leading the industry in providing access to their AIs as a service. This approach obviously leverages their prebuilt containers (services) and thus requires less technical proficiency.

Either way, there is no point to think AI will not have implications on your life. So it’s best to get on board now. By reading this article, you’ve already taken the first step.

I leave you with these final wise words from the Borg, “RESISTANCE IS FUTILE”.


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