Tech Matters: Explaining AI and its impact, today and for our future

The tech industry has developed an unhealthy attachment to acronyms. Courtesy #DStv403

JOHANNESBURG - The tech industry has developed an unhealthy attachment to acronyms.

To help you get your head around the jargon of the day, we’ll dedicate a few episodes to help you understand what these acronyms and terms really mean … in English!

Most of us have probably already had some engagement with them, without even knowing it.

Let’s start with AI.

In a previous episode we spoke about Robotics and said that it differed from AI, so what exactly is AI?

AI, or Artificial Intelligence has been around since 1956 when the term was coined by Stanford Researcher John McCarthy.

He defined it as a sub-field of computer science. Simply put, AI is the ability of a machine or a computer programme to think and learn.

The concept of AI is based on the idea of building machines capable of thinking, acting, and learning like humans.

A more nuanced definition is that artificial Intelligence is an interdisciplinary concept that studies the possibility of creating machines capable of interacting with their environment and acting upon the data received in a manner considered intelligent.

There are certain tasks a machine or programme must be capable of to fit the definition of AI.

READ: Tech matters: Are you digitally literate?

Firstly, it should be able to mimic human thought process and behaviour, and secondly, it should act like a human — and be intelligent, rational, and ethical.

Check the Tech Matters social media pages for some helpful FAQs on AI, as outlined by Stanford University. 

So where will you see AI being used?

Well, it’s already a part of our daily lives. 

Take Alexa, Siri, or Bixby – our smartphone personal assistants, which have already become the new normal for the way we engage with our mobile devices.

These and other AI helpers have already been a part of our lives in some way, in our cars, navigation software, or even in apps like Google Home, Spotify, & Pandora. 

READ: Tech Matters

The ‘assistant’ has to recognise speech, analyse the data they have access to, and solve the problem. AI-based software is even being used to produce news stories.

If you’re always online, then your best friend is Ad-blocker… guess what – that’s also AI! 

AI is still in its infancy, and tech experts believe it will eventually outsmarts humans in most activities.

And a joint Oxford and Yale University paper claims AI will outperform humans in relatively simple tasks like translating languages, writing school essays, and even driving.

Within a few decades, AI is even predicted to be able to write a popular novel or do the job of a surgeon.

We may not know what the future holds, but what is clear is that AI is one of the most significant technological breakthroughs of our time, impacting a range of areas like healthcare, security and poverty alleviation.

It’s considered a major feature of 4th Industrial Revolution, and its potential socioeconomic impact is believed to be as important as the discovery of electricity. 

So instead of being afraid of the machines taking over, take advantage of the improvements they bring to our lives.




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