As technological developments move so quickly, it has become the societal norm that the digital world is fast evolving. For most industries, it can be argued that the only constant is actually change. Developments in technology have drastically improved essential industries such as healthcare, transportation and education, through providing new efficiencies and assimilating granular information and data. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a prime example of how forward-thinking and innovative the advances are, as what was once a fictional film theme is now becoming a plausible reality.

AI is an area of computer science focused on the development of machines in a way that allows them to perform human-like tasks, through combining data and intelligent algorithms. By using the intelligence, the software forms patterns allowing it to mimic cognitive, human-like behaviour and perform automated tasks.

Popular films, such as Star Wars, have explored the possibilities of a ‘robot race’ and there is speculation around whether this is in the realm of possibility, now our technology has advanced far enough to create initial forms of AI. However, AI currently is just designed to perform very specific, narrow tasks, rather than having the capacity and intelligence to perform a broader range of tasks at the same time. It is proving useful in so many areas such as facial recognition, internet searches and driving a car, a far cry from the cinematic depiction of world domination.

Robot talk

In terms of language, AI is rapidly changing the way we interact with several devices. Through a process called ‘natural language processing’ (NLP), AI is evolving to an extent that it understands spoken human language and can be used in real-life applications such as automatic text summarisation, machine translation and automated question answering.

NLP is used to analyze text by examining patterns in data, in order to improve a program’s understanding and increase the level of interaction with humans. Although technology such as Alexa is pioneering NLP and voice recognition, these are set formulaic responses and programmed. Machines are not quite independent of thought, so there is hope yet.

Do we still need humans?

Despite its ever-growing capabilities AI does have its limits, especially in relation to language processing. When discussing the future of AI’s capabilities and its continuous expansion, a big question on everyone’s mind is ‘will artificial intelligence eventually replace humans?’

Although AI can grasp the meaning of simple language, phrases and words, it hasn’t quite reached the intelligence capacity that humans have. For example, AI cannot actually understand the meaning of words in a wider context, despite grasping the definition of a certain word. This is because it can only rely on and gain any knowledge from data, meaning inaccuracies can occur where the nuance of conversation is required.

The aim of AI is to imitate human-like interactions through the use of software. However, AI is limited to data inputting only and machine learning, and therefore does not have the complex thinking and intricate thought processes that humans have. Specifically in terms of language, humans still possess a much more complex ability of proper interaction and engagement with one another. It is predicted that some of the ground-breaking changes could be decades away, although it is debated as to whether AI will ever be on the same, intelligent level as humans.

We can safely argue that droids and armed robots are not on the immediate horizon and these fictional exaggerations can remain a creative alternative of the future. However, AI is definitely set to make a huge mark, but will require the steer, direction and intellect of humans to execute the use of this pioneering technology.

 

Emily Bell

Communication Executive