Focus-Science and Technology - - Focus -

We tend to talk about ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence as though it’s some blurry vi­sion of the fu­ture, yet to sharpen into fo­cus. But the re­al­ity is it’s al­ready here, and it’s al­ready wormed its way in to our ev­ery­day lives.

On­line strings of code fol­low our ev­ery click, log­ging and learn­ing what we like and what we don’t. Face­book does it to show us only the posts it hopes we’ll en­joy, Google does it to of­fer up what it thinks we’re look­ing for, and who hasn’t bought some­thing that Ama­zon thought we might like?

These al­go­rithms – sets of step-by-step math­e­mat­i­cal in­struc­tions for com­put­ers – are be­com­ing more and more so­phis­ti­cated, less ma­chine, more hu­man. Dig­i­tal as­sis­tants such as Siri, Alexa and Cor­tana from Ap­ple, Ama­zon and Mi­crosoft re­spec­tively, can now un­der­stand our nat­u­ral lan­guage and an­swer our ques­tions to a de­gree. And again, ev­ery re­quest is in­putted into a ‘deep learn­ing’ sys­tem that trains each as­sis­tant to bet­ter meet our needs in fu­ture. Even their voices are metic­u­lously de­signed to make us happy.

But how are we go­ing to get from here to the AIs we know and love? For bet­ter or worse, how do we build the flu­ent, in­tu­itive, al­most hu­man machines of sci­ence fic­tion? We need to add a lit­tle some­thing ex­tra: find out what on p40.

Daniel Ben­nett, Edi­tor

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