The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Friday, October 23, 2015

I, for one, will welcome our new AI overlords

Earlier this year, I was driving in a northern Michigan snowstorm headed to Detroit airport. I was worried that, given the storm, my flight might be delayed. Thusly, I grabbed my phone and without knowing if it would work I said to it:

"OK GOOGLE, what is the status of my flight today?"

Within seconds, Googlebot (or maybe it was Larry Page - not sure) responded:

"Flight XYZ from Detroit, Michigan to San Francisco, California is scheduled to leave on-time at 2:30pm".

Pretty cool huh? If you were like me, you're sort of thinking that was cool but big deal, it should do that. OF COURSE it should do that - I could have done that (had I not been driving). After a lot more thinking about it however, I'd like to point out that boy are we a snot-nosed, ungrateful species who take amazing things for granted.

A stunning array of technologies just came together to make that happen. So much so I'm convinced I could write a full length blog article just listing them. In the name of sticking to the topic (i.e. complete human destruction caused by the emergence of AI) let's take for granted the everyday sorcery of talking to thousands of computers around the world, I'll just focus on the “artificial intelligence” parts. (Where “intelligence” may have a fuzzy definition).

Simply: I spoke to my tiny hand-held computer in English. It heard me start with "Ok Google" to know I was addressing it. It then parsed the rest of my words and realized I had asked a question (it likely offloaded that work to a remote computer). It is also able to recognize the voice of millions of others speaking in accents and dialects. I could have likely phrased that question many ways and it still would have worked. It parsed my question and understood I was asking about a flight. It then scanned my Gmail to find my flight reservation I had made months before. From that it examined the outbound and return flight and realized the outbound had already happened.

It might have realized my current location was in Michigan near(ish) the Detroit airport further understanding I was asking about my return flight. It then hit some real-time flight database to know if the flight was still on time. It might have checked Detroit Airport in general for delays to decide if it should respond in a qualified manner. It then formulated a perfect English sentence, maybe with considerations of how I formulated my sentence, computer generated the audio in a human voice, and played it aloud for me.

Go ahead, be not impressed - I dare you. Clichés be damned. We truly live in amazing times.

So that's now. What's coming next? How about:

"OK Google, what's the probability my flight will crash today?"

Via Lobsters, Paul Tyma: How Artificial Intelligence Will Really Kill Us All

The good news? That Paul Tyma doesn't think we'll face the Terminator Scenario.

The bad news? It's much, much worse.

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[The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades]

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