Artificial Intelligence: iRobot?

Ever since Henry Fords sponsoring of the assembly line and the boom of the Industrial Revolution, machines have continued to take over simple human tasks that are typically performed in minimum waged jobs by low-skilled workers. This phase in human evolution, or machine evolution, has eventually led to todays modern Artificial Intelligence, also known as A.I.. There is an array of A.I. projects and products currently on the market. Among these marvels of our era is Apple’s new software, “Siri”.

For those of you who don’t know, Siri is an Apple iPhone application that acts as a personal assistant. It is capable of answering questions, making recommendations and accessing Web services upon voice command. This, along with others, are great inventions that pass along elementary tasks to machines. They benefit us and allow us to focus our time on more important aspects of life. But the issue however, is who exactly reaps the benefits of these advancements. There are undoubtedly a great number of advantages to these advancements. But when considering the disadvantages, are they truly worth the loss?

Since the beginning of time, man has continuously practiced progression, and have become quite good at it. In a world of economical competition and the search for efficiency, small machines have been created in parallel with this progression and now make many of the tedious but important chores a non-factor. Efficiency is a necessity in the business world and is one of the driving forces to maximize ones profit. But is technological progression a necessity?

International Business Machines (IBM), has created a super computer named “Watson”. This computer is known for beating human competitors in Jeopardy, which is a trivia game show that comes on television. This is a surprising accomplishment because this computer is able to consistently sort through a terabyte of information and produce an answer between 3 and 5 seconds. Although a game of Jeopardy does not prove the intelligence of neither man nor machine, it’s a definite sign of progression.

Earlier a question was asked about whether the advantages were all worth the disadvantages of new technology. First, the drive and ambition in those responsible for the inventions that provide our most basic needs seems to exceed that of our own. The technological assistants we have today were not available to them and have become our crutches. So as simple machines are constructed, although they may increase the profit amount of large corporations, they are taking many of the jobs from low-skilled workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011 1.7 million workers were being paid at the minimum waged mark. Replacing these workers would skyrocket the unemployment rate.

Today, Siri has been called a new phenomenon and blessing from Apple. But at some point, so was the calculator. They are both machines that perform tasks we were once able to do on our own. It is shocking to consider these facts and not consider the lack of mental capacity we could be facing in comparison to our fore fathers.

Think about our world as a puzzle piece. Collegiate course are guilty of teaching the usage of tools and not so much the origin.This allows us to understand the grooves and curves on the edge of a puzzle piece. Therefore we are given the knowledge of how to apply what we know to the surroundings, but neglect the internal portion of the piece that represent the inner workings of a tool. Take programming for example, we are taught the usage of functions and object-oriented techniques, but that is essentially the UI of programming itself. One cannot construct a more efficient programming language with this knowledge; we are limited to the outer grooves of the puzzle piece.

In addition, this calls for a class separation in education. Someone must be taught the inner workings of advancing machines but in using more machines to help us learn, the information is being filtered before passed onto following generations. This will not cause a pause in progression though as companies such as AT&T recently devoted 1 million research hours to A.I.. This will only forced those already educationally advanced to further progress and force the uneducated to rely more heavily on crutches.

Entering into this field, one cannot help but consider the potential downfall the success of another area can cause. Replacement of human ingenuity, unemployment and filtered education are all negative factors that come along with this new wave of technology. But, maybe new sources of energy, a decrease in human fatalities in factories and a hospital co-managed by A.I. is worth it.