With the pace of development of AI accelerating we are all being impacted by AI at work and at home.
Because of this, we all need to keep learning about it and stay up-to-date with its evolution.
At the present time hundreds of thousands of developers and data scientists are working on AI projects.
Here are seven possible stages through which AI might develop, and the types of applications of AI we might see over the next 15-20 years.
Stage 1 – Rule Based Systems
These now surround us in everything from business software (RPA) and domestic appliances through to aircraft autopilots. They are the most common manifestations of AI in the world today.
Stage 2 – Context Awareness and Retention
These algorithms build up a body of information about the specific domain they are being applied in. They are trained on the knowledge and experience of the best humans, and their knowledge base can be updated as new situations and queries arise. The most common manifestations include chatbots – often used in frontline customer enquiry handling – and ‘roboadvisors’ that may, for example, suggest the right oil for your motorbike through to giving investment advice.
Stage 3 – Domain Specific Expertise
These systems can develop expertise in a specific domain that extends beyond the capability of humans because of the sheer volume of information they can access to make each decision. We have seen their use in applications such as cancer diagnosis. The most commonly cited example is Google Deepmind’s AlphaGo. The system was given a set of learning rules and the objective of winning and then taught itself how to play Go. It had human support to nudge it back on course when it made poor decisions. In 2016, AlphaGo defeated the 18-time world Go champion Lee Sedol by four games to one.
The following year, AlphaGo Zero was created. Equipped only with her learning rules, she watched thousands of Go games and developed her own strategies. After three days she played AlphaGo and won 100 games to nil.
Stage 4 – Reasoning Machines
These algorithms have a ‘theory of mind’ – some ability to attribute mental states to themselves and others. For example, they have a sense of beliefs, intentions, knowledge and how their own logic works. Hence they have the capacity to reason, negotiate and interact with humans and other machines. Such algorithms are currently at the development stage, but we can expect to see them in commercial applications in the next few years.
Stage 5 – Self Aware Systems / Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)
This is the goal of many working in the AI field – creating systems with human like intelligence. No such applications are in evidence today, however, some say we could see them in five years, while others believe we may never truly achieve this level of machine intelligence. There are many examples of AGI in the popular media ranging from HAL the ship computer in 2001 A Space Odyssey, to the ‘Synths’ in the television series Humans.
Stage 6 – Artificial SuperIntelligence (ASI)
Developing AI algorithms that are capable of outperforming the smartest of humans in every domain. For example, we could imagine ASI solving current world problems such as dangerous climate change. Such systems might invent new fields of science, redesign economic systems and evolve wholly new models of governance. Again, expert views vary as to when and whether such a capability might be possible, but few think we will see it in the next decade.
Stage 7 – Singularity and Transcendence
The exponential development path enabled by ASI could lead to a massive expansion in human capability. Humans might be sufficiently augmented and enhanced to allow us to connect our brains to each other and to a future successor of the current internet. This ‘hive mind’ would allow us to share ideas, solve problems collectively and even give others access to our dreams as observers or participants. Going a stage further, we might transcend the limits of the human body and connect to other forms of intelligence – animals, plants, weather systems, etc. Some proponents such as Ray Kurzweil, Google’s Director of Engineering, suggest that we could see the Singularity happen by 2045 as a result of exponential rates of progress across a range of science and technology disciplines. Others, of course, argue fervently that it is simply impossible.
Envisioning a Smarter World
To help bring to life what a smarter future might look like, we have outlined a possible development timeline for AI:
Now to 2020
- Instantaneous real time translation
- Intelligence built into the machines, sensors and objects that surround us
- Self-editing software
- Fully automated decentralized autonomous organizations (DAO) – smart corporations with no employees
- Artificial intelligence adopted by most firms either deliberately or unknowingly through the applications they rent or purchase
- Personal device based intelligent agents manage our lives and guard our data (e.g. Siri+++++)
- Swarm robotics – groups of robots combining and self-managing to complete a task such an environmental clean-up, bridge repair, or building construction.
- Between 70% and 90% of all initial customer interactions are likely to be conducted or managed by AI
- Product development in a range of sectors from fashion items and consumer goods to manufacturing equipment could increasingly be undertaken and tested by AI
- Individuals will be able to define and design the personalised products and services they require in sectors ranging from travel through to banking, savings, and insurance
- The technology is likely to be deployed across all government agencies and legal systems – with only the most complex cases requiring a human judge and full court proceedings
- Autonomous vehicles will start appearing in many cities across the world
- Our intelligent assistants could now be managing large parts of our lives from travel planning through to compiling the information we need prior to a meeting.
- Globally approved, smart crypto tokens may be accepted alongside fiat currencies as we edge towards a single global medium of exchange
- Artificial intelligence is likely to have penetrated every commercial sector
- The evolution of AI could see the emergence of a wide range of fully automated DAO businesses including banks, travel agents and insurance companies
- Scientific breakthroughs could enable us to develop artificial animal and ecosystem intelligence
- The emergence of self-aware and self-replicating software systems and robots
- The singularity remains an unlikely possibility in this timeframe.
Getting Ready for a Smarter World
The pace of AI development seems likely to continue and we can expect to see regular breakthroughs that blow our collective minds. However, we shouldn’t assume a smooth progression through the seven stages. It won’t be equivalent to the exponential progression we’ve seen in computer power, memory storage and internet connection speeds. To reach the final three stages, massive breakthroughs are required in areas such as neuroscience, neural networks and deep learning algorithms.
Over the next 15-20 years, we’re likely to experience several fundamental transformations as this ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ powered by smart machines touches every nation, life and sector. The critical priority and challenge is ensuring that these advances don’t progress unchecked.
About the authors
Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, Alexandra Whittington, April Koury, and Helena Calle are from Fast Future, a professional foresight firm specializing in delivering keynote speeches, executive education, research, and consulting on the emerging future. Fast Future publishes books from future thinkers around the world exploring how developments such as AI, robotics, exponential technologies, and disruptive thinking could impact individuals, societies, businesses, and governments and create the trillion-dollar sectors of the future. Fast Future has a particular focus on ensuring these advances are harnessed to unleash individual potential and enable a very human future. The latest books from Fast Future are: ‘Beyond Genuine Stupidity – Ensuring AI Serves Humanity’, and ‘The Future – Reinvented: Reimagining Life, Society, and Business’. And their forthcoming book is ‘500 Futures’. See: www.fastfuture.com