By Emily Chen
Think of the term “Artificial Intelligence”. What comes to mind? A perfect futuristic world with self-driving cars, towering skyscrapers, and robots? Giant robots that are planning on taking over the world. Whatever it may be, many people think of a world with Artificial Intelligence as one that seems far off in the future, perhaps only achievable by the year 2500. However, there are already applications of Artificial Intelligence present in our current lives, whether we realize it or not.
Before we get into its applications, what is Artificial Intelligence? According to Techopedia, it is an area of Computer Science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. In modeling the human mind, Artificial Intelligence uses neural networks to train machines to think and act rationally. The initial idea of Artificial Intelligence was proposed by Alan Turing, a mathematician that helped break the Nazi encryption machine Enigma during World War II. Stemming from the question: “Can machines think?”, he wrote a paper called “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” (1950) which laid the foundation for what Artificial Intelligence was to become.
So how is AI used in our lives? One simple example would be on Gmail, where there are tabs at the top that filter your email into Primary, Social, and Promotions. Gmail uses AI to filter out your emails and to make sure that the emails that you actually see are authentic.
A similar email feature that is used in other email services is the spam filter where algorithms are in place to detect and filter out any spam mail.
Whenever we are going online, we are unconsciously interacting with AI by feeding in our data. When we go on YouTube and click on the videos that we want to watch, that information is plugged into YouTube’s algorithm, which is used to recommend videos to us. Similarly, when we search for a product online, Google’s algorithm learns from that information and generates ads on other websites for products that it thinks that we are interested in. According to Forbes, artificial intelligence has the potential to offer $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030 through sales generated by specific pop-up ads.
The “Internet of Things” (IoT), a network of interconnected devices that exchange data, is full of information. Artificial intelligence can go through all of that data and learn new information to make our lives easier. One practical application of this today is Google Maps, which approximates the time for you to get to a distance and how long it will take you to get there. By having the location data to your smartphone the app can compare the location of your device from one point in time to another, calculating how fast or slow you are traveling. Thus, it can determine the pace of traffic in real-time. Combined with incident reports, it can better predict how long it will take you to get from Point A to Point B.
Despite not realizing it at times, we are always interacting with Artificial Intelligence when we go online. With advanced training of neural networks through larger quantities of data, computer scientists will be able to apply AI to more aspects of our lives and make our lives easier. Maybe the vision of robots walking around the streets isn't too far off in the future after all.
Short blog post and plug this week!
We're excited that one of our co-founders will be speaking at the National CSforALL summit in Utah on October 22! She'll be part of a panel on youth-led innovation and outreach in CS, and will talk about Allgirlithm as well as her community workshops for girls. Although her panel won't be broadcast, you can tune into the livestream at live.csforall.org to hear from amazing plenary speakers like Girl Scouts CEO Sylvia Acevedo, and to learn more about making computer science education accessible to all!
For more information about the summit and a full list of speakers visit: https://summit.csforall.org
Hope you'll tune in to learn about Systems Change in computer science and technology! Happy coding.
By Mehak Garg
It all started with Leonardo da Vinci in the late 1450s when he created a crude blueprint for a self-propelled cart. Throughout history, attempts were made by multiple companies in hopes of creating the world’s first self-driving car. In the 1920s Houdini Radio Control Company and Chandler both tried and partially succeded. In the 1970s the Japanese were able to build upon our knowledge of self-driving cars and created a camera system that captured images and relayed them to a computer. Now we have new safety features like assisted parking and braking systems with some cars being able to park and brake themselves. In order to create a fully autonomous car, we have defined 5 levels of autonomy. Many vehicles are partially automated falling in level 2 but recent advancements from Tesla and Audi fall in level 3: conditional automation where a driver is still required but does not need to navigate or monitor everything. That blueprint has since evolved to form the modern constructs of what is now considered as a self-driving car.
Self-driving cars will revolutionize the transportation industry by creating a variety of benefits. The primary one is road safety. More than 90% of car accidents result from driver behavior and error. If self-driving cars are able to mitigate the amount of error, thousands of lives can be saved annually. Fewer car accidents could reduce the costs of insurance and the amount of expensive medical bills saving users about $4,100 annually. Fewer car crashes will also lead to less congestion on the roads meaning cars would be on the street for decreased periods of time. This would decrease travel times and reduce carbon emissions. Self-driving cars also increase accessibility and independence. Many individuals with disabilities are perfectly capable of being independent and having a self-driving car would be one step in the right direction for them. Another benefit is they would help increase productivity by allowing users to leave the car while the car parks itself, saving users valuable time.
Despite the numerous benefits of self-driving cars, there are also many drawbacks. Some drawbacks include pricing, specifically the sticker price being too expensive, the vulnerability of technology and our data, massive job losses in the transportation sector, low functionality during extreme weather, adherence to unique local laws, and others. In addition to these harms, there are many ethical concerns with self-driving cars. Drivers every day have to make ethical choices and use their best judgment. One example is if there is an animal crossing the street, most drivers would stop to spare the animal’s life. With a self-driving car, this gets more complicated because if the car is programmed to prioritize the passenger above all else, the car might decide to not stop prioritizing the passenger’s time instead. Ethical choices made by drivers were measured using the Moral Machine survey which found that individuals discriminated against others when driving based on race, socioeconomic status, age, gender, and looks. The Moral Machine used variations of the famous thought experiment about the trolley problem to understand and explore different moral decisions. The self-driving car is meant to be better than a human and eliminate preconceived biases. An example of how these ethical concerns can play out in a self-driving car is if a car is programmed to stay closer to the bike lane over the trucks, then more bikers will be killed over passengers prioritizing one group of individuals over another.
Self-driving cars have massive potential but in order for them to truly benefit society, it is imperative we get as many perspectives as we can on the ethical issues they can pose. You can advance the progress we make by contributing to the Moral Machine Experiment linked below. It’s been over half a century since Da Vinci’s humble cart, as we constantly innovate and reiterate but we still have a long way to go.
Learn more about the Moral Machine experiment here: http://moralmachine.mit.edu/ https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-self-driving-cars-4117191 https://www.fool.com/investing/2019/09/30/what-does-the-future-hold-for-self-driving-cars.aspx
https://www.insidescience.org/news/moral-dilemmas-self-driving-cars https://www.titlemax.com/resources/history-of-the-autonomous-car/ https://www.esurance.com/insights/self-driving-cars-save-money