Artificial intelligence (AI) has transformed many aspects of our lives for the better. It even played a role in developing vaccines against COVID-19. But you may be surprised just how many things we take for granted that rely on AI.
As IBM explain, "at its simplest form, artificial intelligence is a field, which combines computer science and robust datasets to enable problem-solving." It includes the sub-fields of machine learning and deep learning. These two fields use algorithms that are designed to make predictions or classifications based on input data.
Of course, as technology becomes more sophisticated, literally millions of decisions need to be made every day and AI speeds things up and takes the burden off humans. The World Economic Forum describes AI as a key driver of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Your email provider almost certainly uses AI algorithmsto filter mail into your spam folder. Quite helpful when you consider that 77% of global email traffic is spam. Google says less than 0.1% of spam makes it past its AI-powered filters.
AI automates a host of functions on your smartphone, from predictive text that learns the words you commonly use to voice-activated personal assistants which listen to the world around them and try to learn your keywords.
The way your phone screen adjusts to ambient light or the battery life is optimized is also down to AI. But if the personal assistant absorbs everything you say, whether you’re on the phone or not, some critics say it creates opportunities for surveillance, however benign the intention.
In many parts of the world, online and app-based banking are the norm. From onboarding new customers and checking their identity to countering fraud and money laundering, AI is in charge. Want a loan? An AI-powered system will assess your creditworthiness and decide.
AI also monitors transactions and AI chatbots can answer questions about your account. More than two-thirds of banks in a recent survey by SAS Institute say they use AI chatbots and almost 63% said they used AI for fraud detection.
Going for an x-ray? Forget the idea of a clinician in a white coat studying the results. The initial analysis is most likely to be done by an AI algorithm. In fact they turn out to be rather good at diagnosing problems.
However, critics say AI diagnosis must not become an impenetrable “black box”. Doctors need to know how they work in order to trust them. Issues around privacy, data protection and fairness have also been raised.
As in banking, chatbots are also being deployed in healthcare to engage with patients - for example, to book an appointment - or even as virtual assistants to physicians. This presents numerous issues though, from miscommunication to wrong diagnoses.
AI is at the heart of the drive towards autonomous vehicles, adoption of which has accelerated due to the pandemic. Delivery services are one area being targeted, while China now has a ‘robotaxi’ fleet operating in Shanghai.
To date, the use of AI in controlling aircraft has been limited to drones, although flying taxis that use AI to navigate have already been flight-tested. Experts say a human is still better at flying an airlinerbut AI is widely used in route planning, optimizing schedules and managing bookings.
Ride sharing apps use AI to resolve the conflicting needs of drivers and passengers. The latter want a ride immediately, while drivers value their freedom to start and stop working when they choose. Learning how these patterns interact, AI can send you a ride when you ask for it.
Uncanny how social media seems to know what you like, isn’t it? Of course, it’s all down to AI. Facebook’s machine learning can recognize your face in pictures posted on the platform, as well as everyday objects to target content and advertising that interests and engages you.
Job seekers using LinkedIn benefit from AI which analyzes their profile and engagement with other users to offer job recommendations. The platform says AI is “woven into the fabric of everything that we do”.