The term “artificial intelligence” sometimes conjures up images of the distant future, and a time when self-aware robots take over the planet and make human capabilities irrelevant, because the computer overlords are way better at everything humans do. While that vision may be workable for a hair-raising Halloween movie script, it’s way off base when it comes to the realities of the current generation of artificial intelligence (AI).
If you tackle this story from the highest level, AI isn’t currently a force that is poised to overrun humans. Instead, AI is simply a group of technologies that will increasingly be used to augment human capabilities, and make us better at the things we do best. What’s more, AI isn’t a story set in the distant future. It’s here today, and improving our lives in countless ways.
Of course, it would be naïve to be too Pollyanna-ish about the risks of AI: We have seen throughout history that powerful technology can bring both benefit and harm. As a technologist, my goal is to keep a watchful eye on the risks, while focusing on advancing the life-improving benefits that AI systems can deliver.
When it comes to augmenting human intelligence, there are some things that AI systems are particularly good at. One of them is processing at scale and another is continually learning from experiences—two machine-driven capabilities that extend the limits of human capabilities.
Let’s take a simple example that we all know well. When we use a search engine like Google, we’re experiencing the power of AI to augment human capabilities. The human brain isn’t capable of searching through billions of web pages to find the exact information we are looking for, but Google does this every second of every day. That’s processing at scale.