The changing definition of artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence or machine learning is a broad term, what could once be considered AI in the past is now a commonplace technology that we all carry in our pockets. The idea that technology could learn our habits and adapt to suit our needs used to be a scary thought, now we expect this level of service in all aspects of life whether we are manufacturing the latest car or relaxing at home in front of the TV. Far beyond just suggesting the next binge-worthy show, AI has had a profound effect on the Covid-stricken world and will continue to do so in the new normal. Here’s a look at some of the most interesting artificial intelligence uses in recent history:

AI and vaccine development
Developing a global vaccine would normally take years and in some cases decades, but as we have seen the Covid vaccine was fast-tracked. Human trials were completed within three short months of the first cases being reported. This record-breaking development speed was partly down to the use of AI.

What this AI would allow was the sorting and analysing of vast amounts of data, specifically the thousands upon thousands of subcomponents within the outer proteins of the virus. This meant researchers were able to predict which subcomponents were capable of producing an immune response which led to the creation of the vaccine.

This system sped up the process of a creating a safe vaccine monumentally and it’s not something that is going to stop soon, this use of artificial intelligence will play a big role in the future of vaccine production.

Self-driving vehicles
It feels like this technology has been a long-time coming, whilst the technology exists today and is viable, it seems that the human component remains the issue. With several reports of Tesla drivers not operating the vehicle under safe conditions, it looks like the only way for self-driving cars to operate safely is every car on the road is operating in the same way – a sort of communist car pool!

With recent reports showing that self-driving cars will be hitting the UK roads by the end of the year, how can this technology be made safe? Well, that is actually down to terminology. Technically the cars that allow a hands-free driving experience can be classified as self-driving. What this means is that the car will take control in certain situations like long motorway journeys. The human-driving component is still responsible for the vehicle, they are the final decision-makers and are required to stay alert at all times.

It’s artificial intelligence that holds the key to a driverless utopia, one where car ownership is a thing of the past and as a vehicle is needed, it appears, drives to the desired destination and then moves on to the next customer. So, what’s holding it back? Simply put, machines aren’t as smart as humans. Until a machine can match the high-speed neuron connections of the human brain, it will always be down to the human to be the smartest in this particular equation.

Quantum computing
An easy way to make any technology sound futuristic or sci-fi, add the word quantum to it. But quantum computing had a humble beginning with the invention of the electronic calculator in the 1960s.

Today, Gartner describes quantum computing as “the use of atomic quantum states to effect computation”. Data is held in qubits (quantum bits), which hold all possible states simultaneously. Data held in qubits is affected by data held in other qubits, even when physically separated. This effect is known as entanglement.”

Apart from sounding fresh from a Star Trek script, what does this actually mean? It’s simple really — quantum computers use qubits instead of the traditional binary code of ones and zeros (of course!). Think of a qubit as a sort of data Schrodinger’s cat, the data can represent a value of 0 and 1 at the same time. This means the quantum computer can consider previously unimaginable amounts of information, with entanglement this also means that these qubits can form a connection, one that survives any distance and if a change occurs to one it happens to its entangled twin. This connection was described by Einstein as “spooky action at a distance”.

Quantum computing carries a lot of significance for artificial intelligence as it can speed up AI applications compared to binary computers. Using a quantum computer for machine learning means a much larger dataset can be used leading to more accurate and useful information.

Artificial intelligence is set to play a big part in our future, whilst the term can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different technologies the fundamental goal is the same. Using a technology that can think for itself to make the lives of humans easier and it is certainly on its way to doing that.

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