Thinking Machines and a World of Possibility

Where did AI come from?


The idea of self-regulating technology goes back to 250 B.C., but we won’t delve too deep into its origins, as that would span thousands of years. Instead, we will jump ahead to World War II, when mathematician Alan Turing asked a pivotal question that would launch a new era of science:

 “Can machines think?” 

In 1955, the term “Artificial Intelligence” was coined by a group of researchers from top universities and tech companies, including IBM and Bell Labs. Since then, AI has evolved rapidly, with milestones ranging from the invention of ALICE by Richard Wallace in that same year, to the introduction of Apple’s Siri in 2011, to the release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November 2022.

What is AI?


Here is a little Artificial Intelligence 101 for you. Artificial Intelligence is often defined in broad terms and abstract concepts, which makes it difficult to understand. In basic terms- it is the science of creating machines and computers that are capable of performing tasks typically done by humans. It does this by using algorithms and data sets based on human intelligence to improve machine capabilities.

There are four types of AI:

  1. Reactive machines, which simply respond to what is in front of them
  2. Limited memory machines, which store data and make predictions based on it
  3. Theory of mind machines, which make decisions based on human-like thought processes
  4. Self-aware machines, which understand their own existence and operate with a sense of human-like consciousness and emotion

Artificial Intelligence vs. Machine Learning


It’s kind of like the whole “a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t a square” idea. Artificial Intelligence encompasses various sets of data, algorithms, and intelligence, while machine learning is one of these sets. Machine learning algorithms are typically based on historical data and are designed to improve over time based on their inputs. 

For example, Google Maps uses machine learning algorithms to analyze data on current and projected locations to find the most efficient route for you to take to work.  Alexa also uses machine learning algorithms, collecting data on your daily routines to make suggestions on what it can do for you at certain hours of the day such as, “Should I play, Harvest Moon, by Neil Young so you can start winding down for the evening?”

The Future of AI


The phrase “the future is now” has become cliché, but it is particularly accurate when it comes to Artificial Intelligence.

“AI is not a futuristic vision, but rather something that is here today and being integrated with and deployed into a variety of sectors.”

It is estimated that around 800,000 jobs will undergo major changes in the next year as a result of AI, but this doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in unemployment. Instead, certain jobs will become more reliant on AI to improve efficiency.

Fear is a central human emotion. It is, unfortunately, what keeps us from doing a lot of things we want to do in our lives. With major progression and change, especially in dealing with uncharted territory, people tend to fear the worst. With every invention lies the possibility that it could be used for evil if found in the wrong hands, but that has never stopped us from exploring all the ways something can be used for good. 

AI as a Positive Force


Artificial Intelligence  is already being used as a positive force across various fields. In finance, it is able to detect fraudulent charges and suspicious activity quicker than humans. In health care, it is able to analyze health data and medical history to come up with personalized recovery and care routines. In criminal justice, it serves as an unbiased, data driven analyst of crime. In transportation, it is used to create autonomous vehicles and increase the safety/efficiency of light radar systems. In government, AI is being used to create what people are calling “smart cities” where urban services and resources are managed effectively and equitably based on collected data. 

ChatGPT-The Chat Bot That Everyone is Talking About


If you have access to the internet, you have heard of ChatGPT, a language model engineered by tech company OpenAI. Within the span of a few days, over a million people had tested out the “Generative Pre Trained Performer.” Yes, that is what GPT stands for.

“Chat bots like GPT are powered by large amounts of data and computing techniques to make predictions to string words together in a meaningful way. They not only tap into a vast amount of vocabulary and information, but also understand words in context.”

OpenAI’s aim with ChatGPT is to explore the capabilities of advanced AI systems. Currently, it is capable of tasks such as writing essays and poems, answering historical questions, and generating code. Despite the buzz surrounding GPT, it is not yet 100% accurate, and its developers caution against relying on it for important decisions. Sam Altman, CEO of Open AI recently tweeted,

“It’s a mistake to be relying on it for anything important right now. We have lots of work to do on robustness and truthfulness.” 

As long as people take Altman’s advice, there is no reason for alarm. Think of it as your retired history teacher who is pretty accurate most of the time, but has some major holes in their memory and blurts out things like, “Remember when Abe Lincoln signed the Declaration of Independence?”

Artificial Intelligence and Education


In the context of education, experts Darrel M. West and John R. Allen state that,

“As AI applications accelerate across many sectors, it is vital that we reimagine our educational institutions for a world where AI will be ubiquitous and students need a different kind of training than they currently receive.”

However, not all schools have the resources or support to offer computer science and STEM courses. Organizations such as Woz ED  aim to bridge this gap by providing children with access to technology and critical thinking skills, preparing them for a future where technology plays a central role. By empowering K-12 students from diverse backgrounds with the skills and resources they need to succeed in computer science, society can continue to positively evolve with technology.


Published: February 13, 2023


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