When one hears the term "AI," images of a futuristic, fully automated world that frees humanity from day-to-day tasks come up - combined with darker visions of a dystopian world where people will be subjugated by the "Robocop" type machines that control everything.
The planet is currently experiencing a glorious era in technological history - the rise of artificial intelligence. Yep! AI has finally arrived - and it's here to stay. Many of us have not noticed but in the past decade, artificial intelligence has advanced so much that it is now in our homes, directly affecting our everyday lives. AI is in our electronics (Hello Alexa!), including our smartphones, helping us shop online, translating foreign languages, and even recommending videos to binge on Netflix.
From the moment computers were created, man has always worked on making it think more like humans. Studies began in earnest in the late 1950s, but sadly, the final outcome was not successful and this potential new field of computer science was (basically) declared a dud.
Fast forward to the 1980s, it was given a new life by scientists in Canada, which never stopped funding AI research when the rest of the world did. This continued support allowed AI pioneers like Geoffrey Hinton, Yoshua Bengio, and Richard Sutton to push forward and lay the groundwork for what we now call machine and deep learning. It still took another 25 to 30 years though, for AI to shine, mainly because the technology - especially the development of supercomputers and super-fast processing chips, finally caught up with Hinton's ideas.
Today, Canada is reaping the benefits of supporting a field that many considered too Star Trek early on. It is the undisputed world leader and global AI hub with the majority of the planet's AI brains/gurus/godfathers working there. AI is a highly valued Canadian resource too and is now a driver of economic growth, attracting tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft to invest in deep learning research hubs in Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta.
But of course, there is a seeming dark side to all of this. Though AI has many positive applications - especially in the healthcare industry, it can also be used by people with no ethics or morals to manipulate and even harm others. In fact, this is already taking place; the best example would be when Facebook/social media algorithms were manipulated to influence the outcome of elections around the globe.
Are there risks involved when we eventually build a machine smarter than us? Is AI a threat to humanity's future? In any case, AI is everywhere and the world can no longer go back to life without it. Looking to the future, AI will continue to develop and advance and it is up to us human beings to make sure it is used properly and only for the common good.