Expert Insight

The Reality of Artificial Intelligence

Faculty member explores how technology may or may not transform our lives.

Artificial intelligence, also referred to as AI, is a term widely used in movies, businesses, and governments. It has been portrayed as being able to take over the world, such as in the movie, The Terminator, or as a solution to nearly all the world’s problems—if applied correctly. However, there is some level of misconception when talking, using, or applying AI in technology.

AI is an umbrella term that incorporates training machines to perform tasks only humans are capable of doing. It also includes automating tasks or calculating complex formulas and equations. Essentially, AI is building machines that can do everything a human can do and possibly more. 

One of the often-heard misconceptions is that AI machines will “take my job” or “outperform me.” But is that true? It is possible, for example, in the transportation industry. There is a high demand for truck drivers transporting goods from coast to coast—an industry known for long hours, short deadlines, and dwindling numbers of long-haul drivers. As a result, AI is being tested on a regular basis to support the lack of drivers in a partial or fully automated role and to maintain a consistent high level of performance.

In essence, job roles are changing to a human intervention role, not necessarily replacing humans. This paradigm holds true in other industries as well: agriculture, finance, and health care.

What about outperforming? Does this mean an AI machine can “outperform me” as a human? The answer is yes and no. An AI machine can become very good at a task that it is trained on within given parameters. This is known as Machine Learning or ML under the AI umbrella. In this case, an AI can learn and then attempt to predict certain outcomes based on the given parameters. We must remember, however, that AI is still in no way human. Humans have a far greater ability not only to learn new concepts on a specific set of parameters, but also to expand and relate that to other aspects of life and reality. An AI machine is only as good as the data sets and parameters we set.

Will AI solve humanity’s problems? This is a difficult and complex question to answer. We, as a community, need to look at AI and AI technologies in a community-centric way. The impact of these technologies is significant. Therefore, the community has a role in its development, especially to identify and understand its impact on society. This role can be in the form of active reflective and consultative processes, viewing the technologies through the lens of humanity, values, and principles. In the end, it is important for all of us to influence
the technology, rather than for the technology to influence us.

Joshua Adams is an assistant professor of computer science in the newly established College of Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Data Science (CARDS). He holds a Doctor of Information Technology. His current research interests are information systems, cybersecurity, and interoperability of information systems. He is completing a graduate certificate in AI from Stanford University.

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