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Romancing robots

Whether or not artificial, intelligence is a sequence of activities that culminates in accomplishing a task. AI is an enhancement, not a replacement.

Romancing robots

Humans, as a species, are distinguished by an intelligence that enables them to dominate most other life forms. We have evolved to simplify things in complex manners. Technology is essentially the 'science of craft' and this, too, has evolved several-fold. The value and necessity of technology cannot be overstated and much effort is dedicated to creating technology that will enable machines and automated devices to function in an intelligent fashion.

Intelligence has a distinct feature: promptness to perceive and respond. This promptness springs in response to some external stimulus. The development of an intelligent agent – a device that will perceive its environment and perform with the aim of maximising its chances at achieving some goal – is motivated by the need to accomplish tasks with greater precision and in less time. While scientific developments need to be implemented to be validated, development such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) brings with it the concern of that clashing with the existing systems of performance and delivery. The challenge here is to integrate the diverse methods of AI with the existing systems.
AI took off primarily as an academic pursuit but the sub-fields of AI have not been developing in tandem. This area of research draws upon a range of disciplines that include computer science, mathematics, engineering, linguistics, biology, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, etc. AI, when applied to machines, replicates cognitive functions that humans associate with other (humans) minds. This basically pertains to learning and problem-solving apart from reasoning, perception, planning and processing language.
Despite isolated and uncoordinated developments in the realm of AI, some significant progress has been made with the advent of self-driven cars, drones, automated online assistance, face and speech recognition, spam filtering, etc. Amid the debates surrounding the efficiency and extent of AI, some concerns might be a little misplaced. The purpose of AI is to ultimately accomplish tasks with the greatest precision and devoid of any human error, and that is a perfectly desirable target.
AI programmes can absorb new modifications by putting highly independent pieces of information together. So, even a minute piece of information could be modified without affecting the entire structure of the programme. This enables intelligent robots to have the peculiar feature of 'learning from their mistakes'. The very inspiration behind this undertaking is the normal human brain and seeking ways to replicate its functioning in machines. Given the enticement of effective functioning with minimal efforts, it is natural to have a booming industry of AI research. But here lies the catch.
As reported by The Independent, Elon Musk opines that it is very likely that AI will be a threat to people. The downsides of AI are not unforeseeable. Globally, there is a widening gulf between the prosperous developed world that is intently pursuing this ambition of outsourcing intelligence and the poverty and distress-stricken, war or famine-ravaged developing world which is struggling to just barely survive. AI has all the scope of polarising global powerplay.
As per a recent Wall Street Journal update, chip makers are racing to develop AI products to fuel growth as sales of smartphones and personal computers cool. Besides this example, there is little doubt that AI will inevitably impact the job market. Not only is the nature of many jobs evolving, there is a looming possibility of doing away with some jobs altogether. As far as this uncertainty about the future goes, the solution to this is not debating the ill effects of AI on the economy. The solution to this is preventing and restoring shrinking and vanishing jobs so as to constructively absorb the growing population.
Engaging in materialising technological fantasies is a desirable pursuit. Holistic technological advancement is very necessary but it will make sense only when it is integrated with other aspects of common life. AI does not operate in a vacuum, and to add greater value to it, there needs to be an overall upgradation of social and economic arrangements. An idea in isolation is as good as idle romance. Mechanised intelligence is debatably an oxymoron but whether or not artificial, intelligence is necessarily a sequence of functioning that culminates in accomplishing a task. AI is an enhancement, not a replacement. And a focus on improving the efficacy of the existing methods is preferable over scientific escapades of creating a trans-human being.
(The author is Editorial Consultant and Senior Copy Editor with Millennium Post. The views are strictly personal.)

Kavya Dubey

Kavya Dubey

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