Sep 09, 2015

Be Careful What You Wish For: Should Artificial Intelligence and IoT Meet

When we think of Artificial Intelligence (AI), we may immediately be reminded of the 2001 Stephen Spielberg film in which a child android longs to be real in order to reclaim the love of the mother whose deceased child he was created to replace. Others might be reminded of the dystopian I, Robot where Will Smith must battle an evolved form of AI which is set to imprison humanity.

Both films explore how technology and humanity may one day intersect and the possibilities and limitations that will result from that juncture. As consumers begin to explore the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT), an environment in which objects, animals or people will have the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human interaction, our imaginations may lead us to shudder at the thought of such a reality, or we may marvel at the possibilities.

AI and IoT are uniquely intertwined. AI, the field of artificial intelligence that creates agents capable of replicating human functions – such as visual perception, speech recognition, and decision-making – integrates the ability to understand data and use this knowledge to achieve an objective. IoT, on the other hand, involves embedded devices that can share data in order to streamline processes and improve efficiency.  Therefore, in the future, it may be possible for AI robots to independently communicate with our devices.

For some, this scenario becomes troubling as they imagine AI turning our technology against us. Stephen Hawking, the renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist, believes that AI, although promising, does pose fatal threats. He has stated “success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history,” and “unfortunately, it might also be the last.” That’s a pretty terrifying future to envision. Whether or not it comes to fruition is a matter of debate that cannot be resolved in a few paragraphs.

To reduce the paranoia, we must realize that AI is already a reality in many areas of our lives. Apple’s Siri, Google Voice Search, Google Brain, Google Translate, Xbox, Netflix, IBM’s Watson and self-driving cars are all forms of artificial intelligence. And IoT wearables capable of monitoring vital signs, as well as IoT devices capable of regulating home security, energy use and detecting environmental emergencies are also in current use and improving lives.

We may have to tread lightly when it comes to implementing IoT and AI, mostly due to the security issues that need to be ironed out before proceeding full-steam ahead. But, as has been the case with most technology, the potential to benefit humanity will certainly outweigh any fears of misuse. Given the overwhelming number of problems facing our planet and the impact these may have on our collective futures, intelligence may be just what we need to resolve these challenges. Therefore, rather than visualizing our worst sci-fi fears, we’d be better served striving to understand how AI and IoT can be used as a force of good.