AI: This Is The Droid You’re Looking For

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In September, Amazon announced the Alexa Prize Competition, which promises to award a total of $2.5 million to university students who are able to advance the field of conversational artificial intelligence.

Amazon is looking to innovate its hands-free speaker, Echo, by adding new speaking and personality abilities to Alexa, the voice service that powers Echo. According to Amazon’s official competition page, “The inaugural competition is focused on creating a socialbot, a new Alexa skill that converses coherently and engagingly with humans on popular topics and news events.”

Over the past decades, artificial intelligence (AI) has seen astounding growth as a branch of technological study. Since it was first proposed as a field of research in the 1950s, AI has reached new limits of self-driving cars and barista robots who remember your specific orders.

bios_robotlab_writing_robotNumerous movies predict advances in AI that seem almost impossible. Interstellar (2014) features TARS and CASE, robots with vital roles in the missions they must accomplish. Their most futuristic characteristic is their ability to speak with a human-like quality, achieved through adjustable personality settings.

This feature may seem like something from far into the future, but better conversational AI is the main goal of this year’s Amazon Alexa competition. Professional researchers, not just university students, are spending time and resources to make Alexa better at holding human conversation. This competition brings perspective to where we are in relation to past and future advancements. If we continue down the predicted route of AI achievements, we as the human species must work to find our own place with computerized minds and machines.

The main concern people have is how machines will one day take over all manual jobs, dimming prospects for my generation. However, this mindset is narrow and far behind according to some other predicted uses of future AI. Thomas Dietterich, the President of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, predicts the ability of AI to turn us into super humans.

“Future systems may work via augmented reality or by giving us sensory abilities far beyond existing vision, hearing, and manipulation,” explained Dietterich. “For example, I hope that exoskeletons will allow me to walk when I am old and feeble.”

Experts also predict that AI could create the solution to climate change and improve the field of specialized medical care. The news can be astounding to those of us who did not know machines could go past simply doing what we code them to do. The news can also be frightening to others.

Rather than fear the future of AI, we as prospective laborers and researchers must learn to see how we’ll fit into this new age of technology. Human value will be put into question and we as a generation must provide suitable answers. More than ever, we need to learn how to adapt to this quickly approaching future. How we do so cannot be found in history textbooks and is something we have to create and figure out soon.

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