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Artificial Intelligence, big data, and the unpredictable

Artificial Intelligence, big data, and the unpredictable AI
(Photo: Envato Elements)
Artificial Intelligence, big data, and the unpredictable AI

Jean-Claude Elias

The writer is a computer engineer and a classically trained pianist and guitarist. He has been regularly writing IT articles, reviewing music albums, and covering concerts for more than 30 years.

This is not my first article on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in this space, and given that it is a trending subject, it probably will not be the last.اضافة اعلان

For the minority who may not have followed the AI trend, whereas traditional computer programing is essentially about straightforward calculation, plain information, and direct data retrieval, AI consists of applying more advanced, more elaborate programing methods, allowing those using the system to have the machine make “human-like” decisions and predictions, all based on previous experiences registered and gigantic amounts of data analyzed. Hence the terminology: artificial, because a machine is doing it, and intelligence, because it tries to imitate human thinking, reasoning and decision-making processes.

What has made real-life implementation of AI possible, above anything else, is the gigantic amount of data now available on the global networks that AI can tap to function. Additionally, comes a combination of powerful, lightning-fast computer processors, inexpensive massive memory size and data storage, and modern programming techniques and algorithms.

One way or another, a large number of the new, advanced computer applications and software in general involves AI. Computers are not just powerful calculators anymore. Until about 2015, the French would often refer to computers as “calculateurs”; these days are gone. Now the global IT community wants to see computers as thinkers, too.

Among the systems that would not function without AI: self-driving vehicles, automated HR applications, advanced graphics generation programs like Canvas and Dall-Ethat, personalized e-shopping, some spam-filtering algorithms, GPS-based mapping (Google Maps for example), as well as certain online games.

Simplilearn.com says: “The Alien Isolation games … uses AI to stalk the player throughout the game. The game uses two Artificial Intelligence systems - ‘Director AI’ that frequently knows your location and the ‘Alien AI’, driven by sensors and behaviors that continuously hunt the player.”

Large corporations, typically where the number of employees exceeds 5,000, now use the AI-powered HR system to take current, minor decisions, without any human intervention at all. This includes recruiting staff at a basic level, by automated analysis of the CVs and the applications for employment received, and even firing employees in some extreme cases.
One way or another, a large number of the new, advanced computer applications and software in general involves AI. Computers are not just powerful calculators anymore.
It is, however, the prediction side of AI that is the most daring, the most thrilling, and at the same time the most debated and controversial.

Weather forecast, for periods exceeding a couple of weeks is only possible with an AI-powered system, albeit always with a “certain degree of certitude”. Even more accurate: “At École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, researchers have created an inexpensive system that can predict when lightning will strike to the nearest 10 to 30 minutes.” (Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics)

The celebrated Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana are AI-based systems. The fun part that sometimes comes with their reactions and answers is included, but not necessarily intended by the designers.

Last week I experienced a software bug — a hilarious one — in Google Maps, while driving in Amman. I set and customized the voice language of the app on my phone to French. It is just a matter of personal taste and about staying in touch with my mother tongue in a pleasant way. Whereas most of the time the voice delivery is perfect, the other day, and in the middle of the directions it was giving me over the car speaker, it suddenly switched to English, but started pronouncing the words as if they were French. It took me a few seconds to understand what was going on and to refocus on driving safely. I turned the app off and then on again, and everything went back to normal. AI-powered applications, even by powerful and AI-hungry giants like Google, are yet to be perfected.

Again, some aspects may be funny, but the predictive side of AI is to be approached with caution.

IT is my specialty and has been my field of work since 1980, and I do believe that AI is bringing a significant contribution to advanced programing and will fuel the sophisticated, automated, and smart systems to come. Yet, despite that, I utilize AI with caution, and realize that it has its limits — at least for now.

Carlos Alija’s post on LinkedIn earlier this year said it quite eloquently: “We live in a world … that has quickly built a blind trust in data and AI. That presumes, sometimes arrogantly, that you can predict outcomes and behaviors with a few pieces of information and past benchmarks. I’m glad that our humanness is still here to remind us that it is the unpredictable, the unexpected and what comes from the heart that makes life interesting.”

A tidbit of information: The concept of AI was first presented by pioneering American computer scientist John McCarthy, circa 1956.


Jean-Claude Elias is a computer engineer and a classically trained pianist and guitarist. He has been regularly writing IT articles, reviewing music albums, and covering concerts for more than 30 years.


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