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