As is so often the case in our modern buzzword culture, the phrase artificial intelligence has grown well beyond the confines of what it is, and is instead often thought of in terms of what it could be. There’s nothing wrong with maintaining a healthy sense of a technology’s potentially dark extremes, but many experts contend that the gloomy predictions of a Terminator-like apocalypse levied by people like Elon Musk are not only a few decades premature, but ultimately make too many assumptions about the ways AI could be employed — or, for that matter, is already being employed.
Whether you realize it or not, artificial intelligence likely already plays an active role in your day to day life. Dating apps like Bumble use it to ban images of firearms and shirtless guys on their platforms — they certainly don’t employ people to enforce their prohibition on guns (of the steel or the flesh variety), they rely on machine learning to identify and flag images containing banned material.
This same method, utilized by Yelp to differentiate between pictures of hot dogs and corn muffins, is at the center of the controversial defense contract Google has been under fire for taking on. Google wants to help sift through drone footage and flag elements of import, while the industry surrounding them argues that they’re making targeting systems for the sort of autonomous weapons systems that exist only in Elon Musk’s nightmares.
If you’ve ever been to Zillow.com looking for a new home, you may have noticed that each building, plot of land or apartment offers you a “Zestimate” of the property’s value. No, Zillow doesn’t employ an army of realtors tasked with scouting every building in America. They too rely on AI to produce those figures. Ever take an Uber from the airport? Surprise, it uses machine learning to minimize wait times, adjust prices and even add other passengers that would minimize detours along your route.