In the late 1990s there was a surge of excitement around Artificial Intelligence (AI). In 1997, Microsoft’s Deep Blue computer beat chess grand master Garry Kasparov in a highly touted chess match. The excitement was palpable. The world was obsessed with AI, both the good and the potential bad. There was a surge in sci-fi movies shortly thereafter that warned of an imminent “rise of the machines,” and there was great hope for devices and machines that would make our lives easier. And yet, 20 years later, we still don’t have robots who can clean our houses for us.
However, over the last several years, AI has reared its head again. Apple’s Siri, OK Google, Microsoft Cortana and the self-driving car are just a few of the technologies ushering in a new era of AI. Where has the resurgence come from, and is it for real?
The Rise of Big Data
Artificial intelligence is “taught” to machines. Take Deep Blue, for example. Engineers and programmers had to input millions of possibilities into the system, but the machine still had to play thousands of games of chess before it could “learn” enough to beat anyone, let alone a grand master. Now that big data is being collected at meteoric rates, devices are receiving enough input to begin learning how to respond well to external circumstances.
Rapidly Improving Algorithms
Deep-learning algorithms took decades to develop, but that breakthrough was critical for artificial intelligence. As processing speeds improve, we have witnessed developments at almost double the speed of previous AI breakthroughs. Algorithms are improving every single day, and they are the basis for AI. The better a machine can generate desired results, the smarter and more useful AI devices will become.
Cheaper, Faster Technology
Until very recently, the average computer processor could only ping one item at a time. Now, neural networks – the basis of AI that resembles the neural network of a brain – are able to process parallel tasks. In order for a processor to recognize an image, for example, it must be able to see every pixel individually, and relate each pixel to all of the others at the same time. While facial recognition software was just a sci-fi dream a decade ago, users can now upload a photo to Facebook and friends are instantly recognized and tagged. Advanced software isn’t reserved for corporations or governments, it is making its way into our every aspect of daily lives.
The Importance of The Cloud
The cloud has played a significant role in improving technology and speed. With an infinite amount of space available, engineers and developers are no longer constrained as they were just a short time ago. The cloud has also connected users with technology in ways that were not possible before. The gaming industry has been at the forefront of this technology. Long before “the cloud” was a part of everyday life, gamers were hopping online and playing against people half a world away.
While we are still a long way off from owning robot maids, Artificial Intelligence is becoming a very real thing. The rise of big data, the cloud, faster technology and cheaper technology are ushering in this new era.
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