In the past half decade, artificial intelligence and machine learning have made significant leaps into the mainstream and into our daily lives. According to research firm Markets and Markets, the artificial intelligence market is set to grow to $5.05 billion by 2020 thanks to the increased applicability of various AI technologies into everything from finance to healthcare to retail.
Today, doctors can diagnose Sepsis with an AI algorithm, for instance, and researchers can track endangered species through AI-enhanced photo capture systems. Clearly, these new self-learning and ever-improving technologies have limitless potential in a number of innovative industries.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Technology Engagement Center (C_TEC) recently hosted a panel discussion during its TecNation 2016 event that focused on where we stand with Artificial Intelligence and how it will affect our lives and unlock our potential in the long run. During the session, five organizations came together to weigh in on where each views the future of machine learning heading—and how they intend to keep moving these innovations forward.
Google—which now operates under the larger technology conglomerate, Alphabet—has consistently shown its merit in the evolving world of AI. Through Google’s many advancement (including DeepMind and TensorFlow), they are also quick to ease those who see AI as a threat to their livelihoods.
Fortune reported that Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of DeepMind, spoke at an O’Reilly Media technology conference in San Francisco recently—encouraging that AI is here to help us, not to take away our autonomy. “Humans remain the ultimate controller of the systems,” he reassured the crowd.
DeepMind, an AI startup acquired by Google in 2014, is now able to reduce energy usage in its data centers by 40 percent, using the data it “learned” from the centers themselves. Google’s own TensorFlow is a machine learning system—an open source software library that can be used by everyone, from students to developers to entrepreneurs.
Sarah Holland, Public Policy Manager at Google, knows that they’re at the helm of AI creation and advancement. Even when it comes to Google Photos, AI has transformed the platform. She told the TecNation panel: “It used to not be able to differentiate between a fire truck and a cat…Now, you can search for ‘hugs’ in [Google Photos], and you can bring up photos of people hugging.”
But she also realizes the possibilities of AI reach farther than any one company could even imagine. She explained, “It’s beyond Google, and beyond these products becoming more accessible and useful. What I think is really exciting is being able to use this real incredible [and] powerful set of tools, to solve big social problems that we have.”
It would seem that Toyota sees the world as sci-fi visionaries do: drones flying in the air, robots cooking our meals and cleaning our homes, and our cars driving us to work—all on their own.
“From Toyota’s perspective, AI comes into play with self-driving and self-automated vehicles,” Hillary Cain, Director of Technology and Innovation Policy said on stage.
She stated that more than 35,000 Americans lost their lives in automobile accidents last year—which is about equivalent to “two jumbo jets of people falling out of the sky every week,” she said. And, unfortunately, 94 percent of those accidents are attributable to human error.
If this is the case, then the question is, “What do we have to lose with self-automated cars?”
“If we took everyone in this room or in DC and got into a room to figure out every scenario a car can be in its ten-year run—we could do pretty well, but we couldn’t think of them all…this is where AI steps in—some scenarios don’t even exist yet,” she pointed out.
But what would self-driving cars mean for truck drivers and chauffeurs across the country? Cain weighed in on this as well. “Drivers who feel like they are on the cusp of being out of work: not all AI’s are the same,” she said. “Some have a longer or shorter-term impact on industries.”
She explained the two self-automated cars Toyota has in the works—“the Chauffeur,” which is exactly what it sounds like: a self-driving vehicle with no need for human command. But that a second option—and one that the general public may be more warm to—is “the Guardian Angel” car. This car would still have a driver, but would watch for imminent obstacles and dangers on the road, and would send warnings or take control of the wheel to avoid an oncoming accident. Guardian Angel test-driving will take place at the Toyota Research Institute facility in Palo Alto, California, near Stanford University, and a simulator in Japan will give drivers a 3D-feel for realistic road conditions.
University of Washington
Pedro Domingos, a professor at the University of Washington, is the recipient of the SIGKDD Innovation Award (Special Interest Group on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining) for his early research on mining data streams and his contribution of several algorithms concerning machine learning. The award is the highest honor in the data science field. He wrote “The Master Algorithm,” a book that gives the average reader insight into the latest innovations regarding machine learning.
On the panel, Domingos described AI as getting computers to do things that traditionally require our own intelligence ad and intuition. He says the goal of AI is to get computers to “climb the intelligence ladder” and to start doing things that are far more difficult than what humans can process.
Contrary to popular belief, AI is nothing new. Its field has existed for the past 60 years, but it didn’t make much headway in its first few decades. However, in the past decade or so, the University of Washington has been at the forefront of AI and machine learning projects. The school’s Tractable Deep Learning models and Statistical Relational Learning projects are both a part of its AI department, and both directly involve Domingos.
He suggests that with the more data we acquire over the years, the more data machines can learn from—and it’s only going to increase, giving us pause over where we might be in another ten, twenty years.
Gail Slater, General Counsel for the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying organization, the Internet Association, explained her organization’s role in AI in one phrase: “Education, education, education.”
“AI is not an army of human cyborgs,” she explained, “there are demographics in our population that are seriously scared of AI. And that’s something we have to live with, and the burden is on associations like ours, to educate that demographic.”
The Internet Association wants to keep others constantly informed and updated about AI and machine learning advancements through its policy work in various sectors, ranging from data security to patent licensing. As history tells us, if people don’t know enough about it, then they are more likely to fear it.
Slater adds, “80 percent of folks over a certain age are truly concerned. So the burden is on us to alleviate those fears. We are the folks speaking for the benefits of technology.”
United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has been around since 1790, when George Washington enacted the Patent Act and Thomas Jefferson signed off on it. And, in just the past year, the office screened and sifted through 288,335 patent applications of just U.S. origin—and application numbers are only rising annually.
The first female Director of the USPTO, Michelle Lee, is enthusiastic that AI can be beneficial not only to the patent holders but also to the USPTO itself.
“Developments in AI, especially in the past ten years, wouldn’t examine the benefit from machines doing an automated pre-examination search. This could have a computer algorithm pre-screen, pre-search, and preset the results to either the applicant or the examiner [of the patent].,” she explained to the panel.
Lee also brings up complications that arise when an AI actually develops or creates something on its own. In regards to invention, she questions who exactly would own the patent?. She also wonders when what the machine is and who the human starts to get blurred along the way?
“For machine-created inventions, the agency [the USPTO] is going to have to deal with who gets the right to that—whoever wrote the code, or owner of the data?”
To learn more about C_TEC and the TecNation 2016 event, visit the new C_TEC Homepage.