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Hager Forum: Article by Daniel Hulme about artificial intelligence and its impact on business and society

Obernai, 18.02.2019

Artificial intelligence today and tomorrow I Daniel Hulme.

Daniel Hulme held a conference about artificial intelligence (AI) on November 15th at Hager Forum. In this interview he explains what artificial intelligence is and how to differentiate it from optimisation processes. Using examples, he shows how AI is embedded in buildings and how we, humans, are interacting with it. In conclusion, he shares with us his vision of the future and the ethical implications of artificial intelligence.

Hager Forum: Artificial intelligence – please explain what it is and what it isn’t. 

Daniel Hulme: There are two definitions of AI, and the more popular one is the weakest. This first definition concerns machines that can do tasks that were traditionally in the realm of human beings. Over the past decade, due to advances in technologies like deep learning, we have started to build machines that can do things like recognise objects in images, and understand and respond to natural language. Humans are the most intelligent things we know in the universe, so when we start to see machines do tasks once constrained to the human domain, then we assume that is intelligence.

But I would argue that humans are not that intelligent. Humans are good at finding patterns in, at most, four dimensions, and we’re terrible at solving problems that involve more than seven things. Machines can find patterns in thousands of dimensions and can solve problems that involve millions of things. Even these technologies aren’t AI — they’re just algorithms. They do the same thing over and over again. In fact, my definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.

The best definition of intelligence — artificial or human — that I’ve found is goal-directed adaptive behavior. I use goal-directed in the sense of trying to achieve an objective, which in business might be to roster your staff more effectively, or to allocate marketing spend to sell as [much] ice cream as possible. It might be whatever goal you’re seeking.

Behavior is how quickly or frictionlessly I can move resources to achieve the objective. For example, if my goal is to sell lots of ice cream, how can I allocate my resources to make sure that I’m achieving the objective?

But the key word for me in the definition of goal-directed adaptive behavior is adaptive. If your computer system is not making a decision and then learning whether that decision was good or bad and adapting its own internal model of the world, I would argue that it’s not true AI. And it’s OK for companies at the moment to be calling machine learning AI. So for me, the true definition of AI involves systems that can learn and adapt themselves without the aid of a human. Adaptability is synonymous with intelligence.

In fact, most companies don’t have machine learning problems — they have optimisation problems. Optimisation is the process of allocating resources to achieve an objective, subject to some constraints. Optimisation problems are exceptionally hard to solve. For example, how should I route my vehicles to minimise travel time, or how do I allocate staff to maximise utilisation, or how do I spend marketing money to maximize impact, or how do I allocate sales staff to opportunities to maximise yield? There are only a handful of people across the world who are good at solving problems like this with AI.

Hager Forum: Can you give some examples of important AI applications?

Daniel Hulme: For millions of years, biological life has been intelligently adapting its environment to enable it to thrive. However, since the start of this century our species has established a new paradigm; we've begun building environments that intelligently adapt to us. AI is starting to be used to automatically control the temperature in our homes, recommend what products we should buy, and advise us about what to eat to live longer, healthier and happier lives. Like biological systems, AI consumes data from a myriad of sensors. Whether we carry these devices around - like our phones - or they are embedded in the walls and objects we interact with, we're seeing an explosion of sensory data that is being mined for insights. This technology is often called the Internet of Things (IoT), and it's becoming the eyes and ears of AI.

Aside from predicting when to make us coffee or when our autonomous car should pick us up from the office, our environments will learn to make our lives more comfortable by collaborating and interacting intelligently with itself. 400 million years ago the formation of the earliest eyes caused the Cambrian Explosion of diverse biological life. I would imagine that we will see a similar explosion of technology, stemming from the convergence of an abundance of sensory data with the ability of our environments to reconfigure and perhaps construct themselves without human intervention or guidance - environments building environments.

Hager Forum: Let’s have a look into the future. 

Daniel Hulme: If Moore's Law continues - where computing doubles in speed every 18 months - then over the coming decades these devices will become exponentially smaller, perhaps small enough to run through our veins and gather detailed data about our physiology. This data will surface insights that will enable our environment to intelligently interact with us in ways we can't yet imagine. The intelligent environments we're building form the fabric of our physical and digital interactions. With virtual and augmented reality on the horizon, we might see people living more and more in virtual worlds; worlds that allow us to suspend all of physics and reality. Perhaps we can't yet imagine how magnificent and absorbing those worlds will be, or how they will evolve. We don't know how it will change the way we interact with physical and virtual objects, AI agents and each other. Nor do we know what impact these adapting environments and intelligent worlds will have on our physiological development, emotional intelligence and social attachments.

Hager Forum: What is the ethical challenge posed by AI?

Daniel Hulme: For millennia, philosophers have been debating about how society should be structured and what it means to live a “good” life. As our environments start to intelligently interacting with us we're giving them the power to create and destroy. We have to embed ethical behaviours into these system, which makes it an extremely exciting time for humanity, because we now have to agree on what those ethical behaviours should be.

 

See or review Daniel Hulme’s talk about artificial intelligence.

The best definition of intelligence — artificial or human — that I’ve found is goal-directed adaptive behavior.

Daniel Hulme

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