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"I, For One, Welcome Our New Computer Overlords": How This Quote Applies to Us in the Advent of AI

Artificial Intelligence has become better and better over the past few years. Technology is available and has been developed to anticipate the directives the operator can request, and it is very quickly becoming less of a thing of fiction and more of an upcoming reality for those who can afford it.

The umbrella of the term AI encompasses all intelligence displayed by machines, but is commonly known more as a descriptor of machines that “think” like humans, and have the ability to “learn” from previous experiences, modify their future reactions to directives, and solve problems, mimicking the way a human would. Each AI can be thrown into one of three camps; humanized, analytical, and human-inspired.

Humanized AI takes not just cognitive and emotional intelligence that learns, but also social intelligence. This AI is considered to be the most “human-like, as it is also able to be self-aware and self-conscious, picking up on social cues of others in interactions with humans and other AI. Analytical AI can only understand and make “learning” decisions cognitively, and make decisions based on past learning experience. Human-inspired AI is classified by being able to understand both human cognitive and emotional intelligence and consider that information in decision making.

Now, it has long been a concept of the human mind to form and develop AI, going further back in the collective human experience than written fiction. Many religions believe that humans are a form of AI to various deities. Harnessing that concept for human use and then making beings capable of their own thought has been certainly a favorite debate amongst philosophers, mathematicians, biologists, theorists, and storytellers for generations. It was not until 1956 that the categorization of research on AI-related topics and development of those theories into use became a field of study. Building upon discoveries from various other fields, AI research saw vast leaps in both research and development over a span of less than 15 years. Despite this, it was not until the late 1990s that AI research saw marked success within programs used hand in hand within computers. From there, further leaps have occurred, utilizing the access to large amounts of data the Internet can provide.

Today, AI is less about development, and more about refining the knowledge obtained to lessen error rates of processing that information. AI is being used to assist in translation endeavors, beat complex strategic games, and is now utilized in multiple companies’ products and countries’ production and defense.

When one is faced with anything new and complicated, of course there is a measure of fear that can exist, especially when it is possible that the knowledge a machine possesses is more that what we can personally conceive to know. Honestly, just trying to wade my way through the Wikipedia article in order to understand this topic myself was a journey. I felt a little like Fry from Futurama when he first saw the year 3000; overwhelmed and ready to scream comically until a perfectly timed ad break. Maybe we can take a page from that character’s, and Ken Jennings' book, though, to help us transition into "The World of Tomorrow.” Notably, in 2011, Ken Jennings lost to IBM’s AI Watson on the quiz show Jeopardy!. Ken rephrased the then heavily-memed quote from the Simpsons, “I, for one, welcome our insect overlords,” on his final Jeopardy! answer, substituting the word “computer” as the indirect object. It was meant to be tongue-in-cheek and funny, but I think a grain of truth can be taken from this.

Life is meant to be lived, and lived fully, to the extent of what we can accomplish with our fragile human minds. Keeping an open and curious mind, and allowing ourselves to expand our worldview to include the new, sometimes fantastical options our world has to offer will add vibrancy to the amazing story of our lives, and allow our hearts to have compassion for the plight of our fellow humans. There is an amazing amount of knowledge to discover with the help of a tool such as AI, beyond the convenience that it could (and already does) offer us.

Happy Monday, and I hope you go out and explore today.

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