WENY News - AI: Shaping our Future

AI: Shaping our Future

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ITHACA, N.Y. (WENY) -- Artificial Intelligence, also known as AI, may be the most important development conceived by the human race. But it could also be the worst. Either way you look at it, very important research into AI and robotics is being done at Cornell University.

As of right now, we are seeing very basic AI, compared to its full potential.

Doctor Bart Selman, a Cornell Professor, is one of the world's experts in the field. He said, "Artificial intelligence is an area, a sub-area of computer science, where we develop machines that basically behave and think more like humans, so they have some level of intelligence."

Doctor Selman says one very key and important part of AI is machine learning. "The machine, can learn from data, it gets from the world, it can improve itself, it can become a better program, in some sense by learning."

If AI can keep improving itself, that's where some people, including Hollywood think we are doomed. This has been portrayed on the big-screen in movies like "The Terminator" and "Robocop".

Doctor Selman said, "The machines could be quite a bit smarter than us, and then the question is, how can we ensure that these machines will live in sort of a symbiotic state with the machines, but how can we can we make sure the machines will treat us well."

But there's another problem, one that is much closer to reality, and will most likely happen in the near future. "The most immediate impact will be on employment, or the risk of very high levels of unemployment. Because many jobs will be automated, to me that's one of the of the most immediate risks in a sense of how society will deal with that if suddenly only have 30 percent or 20 percent of your jobs left," said Doctor Selman.

But in order to have an impact on the physical world, whether it be good or bad, you need to give it a physical presence. Kevin O'Obrien, a roboticist at Cornell University, helped create a prosthetic hand. O'Brien said, "It operates with tendons, so basically we have motors and strings that are pulling these fingers.So when we turn on the motor it is pulling the fingers. They're are optical sensors in the fingers, they are able to detect the both the proximity, so how far away an object is, up to about 10 centimeters, and they can also detect the amount of force that's being applied once it comes into contact."

O'Brien added, in the next few months the prosthetic hand will be attached to amputees so they can use it in place of an actual hand.

In the world of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, we still have a long way to go. But everyday, these machines and the basic AI that runs them keeps getting better and better.

"It is kinda surreal, you know, you don't really realize it when you are working on it, until you start talking to people  and their eyes light up, because they think it is so cool... and you think you know I think it is pretty cool," said O'Brien.

Doctor Selman said, "We do see increased attention from all kinds of news organizations, and people, the press is picking up that something is happening, if you look at New York Times, they have a story on AI twice a month now. It's exciting and it is fun, but we need to pay attention to some of the risks, and Cornell is one of the players in that area."

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