thumbâ) rather than precise algorithms. As a result, todayâs AI systems can see and recognize objects, understand some spoken and written language, speak, move about the environment, and do complex reasoning.
Perhaps the most successful use of AI today for everyday activities is in computer games, developing intelligent characterswho play against people, creating those intelligent, exasperating personalities in simulation games that seem to enjoy doing things to frustrate their creator, the game player. AI is also used successfully to catch bank and credit card fraud and other suspicious activities. Automobiles use AI for braking, stability control, lane keeping, automatic parking, and other features. In the home, simple AI controls the washing machines and driers, sensing the type of clothing and how dirty the load, adjusting things appropriately. In the microwave oven, AI can sense when food is cooked. Simple circuits in digital cameras and camcorders help control focus and exposure, including detecting faces, the better to track them even if they are moving and to adjust the exposure and focus to them appropriately. With time, the power and reliability of these AI circuits will increase, while their cost will decrease, so they will show up in a wide variety of devices, not just the most expensive ones. Remember, computer power has a thousandfold increase every twenty years, a million every forty.
Machine hardware is, of course, very different from that of animals. Machines are mostly made of parts with lots of straight lines, right angles, and arcs. There are motors and displays, control linkages and wires. Biology prefers flexibility: tissue, ligaments, and muscles. The brain works through massively parallel computational mechanisms, probably both chemical and electrical, and by settling into stable states. Machine brains, or, more accurately, machine information processing, operates much more quickly than biological neurons but also much less parallel in operation. Human brains are robust, reliable, and creative, marvelously adept at recognizing patterns. We humans tendto be creative, imaginative, and very adaptable to changing circumstances. We find similarities among events, and we use metaphorical expansion of concepts to develop whole new realms of knowledge. Furthermore, human memory, although imprecise, finds relationships and similarities among items that machines would not think of as similar at all. And, finally, human common sense is fast and powerful, whereas machine common sense does not exist.
The evolution of technology is very different from the natural evolution of animals. With mechanical systems, the evolution is entirely up to the designer who analyzes existing systems and makes modifications. Machines have evolved over the centuries, in part because our understanding and ability to invent and develop technology has continually improved, in part because the sciences of the artificial have developed, and in part because human needs, and the environment itself, have changed.
There is, however, one interesting parallel between the evolution of humans and that of intelligent, autonomous machines. Both must function effectively, reliably, and safely in the real world. The world itself, therefore, imposes the same demands and requirements upon all creatures: animal, human, and artificial. Animals and people have evolved complex systems of perception and action, emotion and cognition. Machines need analogous systems. They need to perceive the world and act upon it. They need to think and make decisions, to solve problems and reason. And yes, they need something akin to the emotional processes of people. No, not the same emotions that people have but the machine equivalentsâthe better to survive the hazards and dangers of the world, take advantage of opportunities, anticipatethe consequences of their actions, and reflect upon what has happened and what is yet to come, thereby learning and