Artificial intelligence was once a distant dream, but today it’s making its way into our lives at an accelerating pace. In 2016, self-driving cars are a reality (on the test track, at least), and tasks that once seemed difficult, like natural language recognition and navigating forest trails, are now increasingly within our grasp.
We’re developing a world of artificial narrow intelligence (ANI), in which computers can do specific tasks very well — as opposed to artificial general intelligence (AGI), in which computers mimic the entire human brain and are sentient. That’s not surprising, as the first problem is far easier to solve.
This puts dystopic scenarios like computers taking over the world — and ending it — much further away than sci-fi films would have us believe. Although experts such as Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk still worry about it.
While we wait for the ai-pocalypse, ANI is likely to create its own benefits — and problems — along the way. Here’s a look at what life in an artificially intelligent world could look like in 2030.
Sam, your virtual assistant, wakes you up. Nearly 15 years on, both Siri and Cortana have been replaced by Sam — a cognitive computer, using natural language to interact with you.
You’re up, but it isn’t time for work yet. Jobs are different these days. A University of Oxford study predicted back in 2013 that 47 per cent of employment was at risk — and while AI isn’t eradicating jobs that quickly, it is making a dent. It has already eroded a large number of traditional low-skilled jobs, and is now affecting knowledge workers more frequently.
Tasks with complex social intelligence or physical manipulation turned out to be relatively safe. You work as a counsellor, helping people deal with addiction, and your services are in demand around the Toronto area, where you work with private patients and healthcare clinics.
Is your job under threat? Find out here.
Sam knows your schedule. She created it, after all. She ordered you a car at 9 a.m. to get you to your first appointment. A significant proportion of cars drive themselves in 2030, thanks to machine learning technology, which is shifting urban communities to an instant-rent model. Car ownership is on the wane.
You sit back and prepare to watch a customized news channel tailored to your interests, as analyzed by a bot. It knows you’re travelling to Malaysia on vacation in a couple of months, and foregrounds a news story about the region.
Sam chimes in: “Can I call your mother?” Sensors in her home haven’t registered movement this morning, and her assistant ‘spoke’ to yours.
She’s okay, but she slept in, because she’s feeling depressed. Social isolation is an increasing problem in an AI-powered world, and her robotic pet, designed to monitor her and react with natural language, just wasn’t cutting it yesterday.
Sam was analyzing the conversation. “Shall I send her some flowers? That’s what you did last time,” she says.
“Good idea,” you say. “Spend up to $30.” And so she does, at the online store she used before.
The technology for this kind of digital assistant is already in development. In 2016, it handled basic questions and instructions. Then, it began stringing them together into conversations. Today, it draws on a vast database of your existing behaviour and preferences to anticipate what you want in advance, and it’s all down to AI algorithms.
AI will become increasingly invisible, according to experts in Pew’s Predictions for the State of AI and Robotics. It will handle things for us in ways we don’t even notice. So at lunchtime, when you hit the drive-through, you don’t even realize that you’re talking to a software bot to order your food, which then has a robotic system prepare it for you. There isn’t a single human in the joint.
Halfway through your burger, you’re already halfway to your next appointment. It’s not where you thought it was. Your 12:15 p.m. cancelled, and Sam took care of it for you, redirecting the vehicle without your input. She flashes up the patient details on your phone before you arrive.
Robots are becoming increasingly intelligent, and capable of automated tasks. Here’s an example of where we were in 2016:
It’s mid-afternoon, and it’s your turn to be a patient. You’re scheduled for a doctor’s appointment.
Machine learning algorithms analyze increasingly reliable data from your wearable devices to detect problems far earlier than they otherwise would. You were asked to come in for tests after machine learning algorithms had noticed anomalies in your data compared to others in your demographic.
The nurse takes a fluid sample, and within a few minutes, three different software algorithms have analyzed it and they concur: no need to worry. On this visit, you see the doctor for five minutes, but unless you have a complaint to deal with, the meeting is just a formality. Technology enables her to manage twice as many patients as she would have in 2016.
Time for a movie with your date! Concession staff don’t exist, and neither do ticket clerks. Sam recommends the latest romantic comedy, based on both of your viewing histories together, and buys your tickets.
Suddenly, Sam warns you that someone tried to use your card earlier this morning to make a purchase in a different city. In 2030, cyber-threats are more prevalent than ever, and AI agents act as your personal digital bodyguards. After confirming it wasn’t you, she instantly contacts the bank and puts a hold on your account while she works it out with their bot.
It’s been a long day. You don’t normally go to bed this early, but Sam’s sensors and camera analyze a variety of inputs ranging from your expression to your body temperature, gait and breathing.
“There’s a high probability that you’re coming down with something,” she tells you. A 94 per cent probability, in fact, but she knows you don’t like hearing her numbers. “Should I cancel your appointments tomorrow?”
“Good idea, Sam,” you find yourself saying. You say that a lot, these days, and it doesn’t feel weird at all.
Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos