Thursday, November 5, 2020

Is Artificial Intelligence Taking Over Our World?

I much like all of you have been binging Netflix for the greater part of 2020. Within three months, I had almost watched Netflix’s entire viewing catalog. So when a new documentary, The Social Dilemma, came across my path as a new viewing option, I jumped on the ‘play’ button.

This is not a documentary recap, but I will tell you I was left entertained. The documentary details just how big of a role artificial intelligence (AI) plays in our lives. I am constantly on social media, so I felt a little disappointed in myself at how unaware I was of AI’s impact on the content I consume. After the initial shock of the documentary, I started wondering, what other aspects of my life does AI affect? Let’s explore other ways AI has entered our lives.

WTH Is Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Let’s first breakdown this technology that is seemingly controlling all of our lives. AI isn’t a new concept; in fact, it’s been around for a while. Another thing to note is there are countless variations of AI. I’m not going to name them all because we would be here for hours, but some you are probably familiar with include machine learning, the Internet of Things, and chatbots. AI mimics the human mind, in that computers are able to learn, problem-solve, make decisions, and so much more. Kind of cool, but also kind of scary if you start to think about it.

Retail + AI = The Perfect Combination 

The use cases for AI goes beyond your chatbot located on your website. One example of AI in retail is the cashierless experience at Amazon stores. Using machine learning and cameras, the Amazon Go stores are able to track what each customer takes from the store.  I have yet to visit one of these stores, but I can imagine not having to wait in a long line to checkout is total bliss.

Amazon Go stores aren’t the only retailer dabbling with AI. How many times have you stared at your pantry wondering what you could put together with the five ingredients you have left? I am no stranger to this game; most of the time, the best dish I can come up with is nachos. So when I heard Kroger rolled out a new AI tool, Chefbot that will give you recipe suggestions based on the ingredients you have at home, my interest was piqued.

Simply Tweet Kroger a picture with the ingredients you have on hand, and Chefbot will create a list of dishes for you to whip up. For those that lack creativity in the kitchen and the desire to visit a grocery store, it’s the perfect sous chef; Chefbot feeds you the great ideas, while you get to take all of the credit for the meal. Now, if only there was a robot to do all of the cooking for me…

Let’s Get Social

We already know AI controls what we see on social media. Take one of my favorite social media platforms: TikTok. If you too have fallen under the video-sharing mobile app’s spell, you know just how specific its algorithm is. I watched one video on how to make croissants, and suddenly my entire feed was showing me videos on how to make the delish French pastries. There are pros and cons to this level of personalization (watch The Social Dilemma for a deep dive into this issue), so be mindful of the content you are consuming on these channels.

Breaking News

But maybe you’re better than I am and have resisted the urge to be enthralled by social media. Maybe the news is your preferred method of entertainment. Well, I hate to break it to you but AI is starting to creep its way to this channel (just not in the way you would think).

The Amazon Go stores have eliminated the need for cashiers and now news anchors are being replaced by AI in China. ‘Reporters’ read announcements through text that is entered into a system. Because these ‘reporters’ aren’t actually human, they can work 24/7, reducing the cost for actual news anchors. But after watching a couple of reports, I can’t say I would be willing to watch an AI news anchor; I prefer the witty banter and voice inflection that an actual human is able to provide. 

AI Enters Healthcare 

Even healthcare isn’t invulnerable to AI’s reach. With so many unknowns about COVID-19, specifically around asymptomatic people, it would be convenient if there was a tool to give healthcare providers more insight into the virus. According to a new study, there is a difference in the way asymptomatic people cough from a healthy individual. There’s a new AI model that can actually detect this small difference in the way a person’s coughs. This tool has the potential to provide better insight to whether an individual is healthy or is asymptomatic to the virus. 

We can debate whether AI is taking over our world all day long. But the thing that’s hard to ignore is the fact that AI is a part of our lives now, whether we like it or not.