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Looking ahead to 2050 – Artificial Intelligence I

Artificial Intelligence, "in practice", goes back to the early days of computers. In the 1960ies the computer was called "electronic brain" underlining the idea that it will become like a brain. We have seen over the last fifty years periods of excitement followed by disillusionment. The achievement of intelligence proved an elusive goal, just around the "next" corner but it never materialised.
In the last few years we have started to see smarter interactions with machines and we have in a few cases caught by surprise by some "intelligent" response by machine, like move 37 in the second match of Go played by AlphaGo vs Lee Sedol in March 2016.
Artificial intelligence, in a way, has also faded in the backstage, and this is good because it shows that it is really becoming an everyday component of our life. Think about Siri, or the search of an image by showing an image to Google (uploading a photo to find a similar photo), face recognition in some photo organising applications like iPhoto, handwriting recognition using GoodNotes, profiling movies to fit our taste on Netflix and songs with Pandora. These applications are making use of Artificial Intelligence, even though we may not realise it.

  • Smart cars are making use of artificial intelligence, they are using deep learning technologies to understand their environment and make prediction of other cars, pedestrians, cyclists and animals behaviour. 
  • health care is seeing AI being used in diagnoses, in personal health digital Assistant, in personal life coach and in health care bots. 
  • manufacturing is making use of AI to improve planning, production supervision and cut downtime. GE is commercialising the Brilliant Manufacturing SaaS (Software as a Service). The market for smart manufacturing tools is expected to reach 250 billion $ in 2018 according to TrendForce. 

AI hasn’t just got very useful it has shown that it can be better than our “embedded” intelligence. We got used to have machine being better than us, like being able to lift heavier weighs, move faster, be more accurate and so on. But that was considered as an improvement to our atoms, our muscles and we were never really bothered. With AI it is like machine, atoms, are becoming better than our “soul”, the thinking part of us that we have considered, because of philosophical bias, as different from atoms and specific of human kind.

Well, it turns out that AI today can best (the majority of) us at playing chess, go, poker, recognizing faces, extracting meaning from complex text, translate from one language into another.

However, it is a sort of narrow intelligence. The machine that would defeat us at chess is not able to create a joke.  This is why what we have today is a subset of AI, sometimes referred to as ANI – Artificial Narrow Intelligence.  But that is going to change in the coming decades.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.