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  • 5 Things You Didn't Know about Artificial Intelligence

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    For many people, the term artificial intelligence evokes images of futuristic robots taking over the planet in science fiction movies. However, artificial intelligence has become quite commonplace in everyday life, sometimes in surprising ways. Here are five things you might not know about artificial intelligence.


    1. AI Gets Smarter by Learning From the Real World

    Machine learning algorithms use complex functions, such as an optimizer, to increase its knowledge base by studying examples. Programmers who work with AI help it learn by providing it with datasets, which are large collections of examples, such as weather data, sports statistics, photos or music.

    Because datasets can often be challenging to compile, many AI designers share datasets for their mutual benefit. This sharing of knowledge allows AI programmers to create increasingly intelligent and useful systems.


    2. You Probably Already Use AI

    Artificial intelligence sounds like a high tech term, but it is integrated into many commonly used technologies. If you have ever used Google image search, asked Alexa to look something up for you or used a GPS, you have probably used a product powered by AI.

    Additionally, AI is frequently being used in systems that could significantly impact your daily life. For example, farmers are using AI-powered apps to help them grow their crops more efficiently, which could mean cheaper and higher quality produce in your local grocery. Cities are using AI technology to more efficiently route traffic, which might mean less frustration and fewer accidents during your daily commute.


    3. AI Might Help Save Democracy

    With election season right around the corner, you have probably heard about "deepfakes." Deepfakes are AI-generated images, speech, music or videos that look like the real thing, but are not. The programs that generate these images can make them seem so realistic by studying real-world examples and creating fictional versions that mimic them.

    The problem with these deepfakes is that people are using them to fool people into thinking that a candidate or public official said or did something they did not do. When people believe these deepfakes, they spread like wildfire on social media until the fake stories sometimes become difficult to distinguish from the truth.

    Fortunately, AI technology can be used to spot inconsistencies, such as unnatural sounding voices, weird facial ticks or unusual hand gestures that mark something as a deepfake. Humans can learn to spot these differences also but are prone to allowing their biases to trick them into seeing what they want to see.


    4. AI Could Help Save the Planet

    The ability of AI systems to churn through large amounts of data and spot patterns has been a critical component of ongoing efforts to combat climate change. One example of how AI technology is helping fight environmental problems is smart systems that allow consumers to automatically adjust heating, cooling and lighting systems in their home to conserve energy when they are not home.

    AI systems are also being used to predict rising sea levels due to glacier melt so that researchers can determine effective methods of combating the problem. AI is even being used to determine the environmental impact of AI so that the technology can be made greener.


    5. Humans Still Have Some Advantages

    As many wonderful things as AI can do, the fears of self-aware AI plotting to exterminate all human life that so often gets portrayed in movies are overblown. Humans are very complex creatures and our brains work in ways that machines are not capable of fully emulating.

    AI systems are limited by their datasets. Humans are capable of intuitive leaps that machines are not. Eventually, humans may invent machines that are capable of matching the human brain, but that day is likely very far off.

    AI systems are becoming an increasingly common part of everyday life. While they will likely continue to evolve in ways that may sometimes be unexpected, they are not likely to reach science-fiction levels of self-awareness anytime soon.

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