Artificial Intelligence

There are so many different technologies that have come to the forefront in the past few years. Whether it is new advances in medicine, advanced weaponry being used by militaries around the world, or incredible innovations being made in the entertainment industry, it seems as if there are news stories about amazing new technologies popping up everyday. One technology that has received a substantial amount of news coverage in the past few years, though has been around for decades, is artificial technology. Various forms of artificial technology have been around for decades; however, there have been many new innovations in the past few years that have caused many people in the scientific community to be very excited. This paper will focus on artificial intelligence’s role in the world today, having a focus on the representation of artificial intelligence in popular culture, and what new innovations in artificial intelligence mean for the future.

Artificial intelligence is defined as “the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.” Now when people see this definition, and think about the term “artificial intelligence” in general, they tend to think of very advanced forms of this type of technology. These people hear the words “artificial intelligence,” and immediately think of humanoid robots or super-computers that can solve complex equations in less than a second. While these are perfectly valid examples of artificial intelligence, and will be discussed later, they have only been developed within the past few years and have little value in the everyday life of most people. There are far many more examples of artificial intelligence that people seem to forget about and actually have a practical use in everyday life. Many things that you use in your everyday life are forms of artificial intelligence without you even realizing it. For example, anytime you use a calculator to solve a math equation, you are using a form of artificial intelligence. It is considered artificial intelligence because it solves equations by simply inputting data, something that would normally require human intelligence to accomplish.

A second example of artificial intelligence that one uses in everyday life is a smartphone. It seems that wherever one goes, he/she sees someone using a smartphone. Now, it is more surprising when someone doesn’t have a smartphone than when someone does have one, something that was reversed only five years ago. Although a smartphone in itself is a form of artificial intelligence, its various apps, or applications, are forms of artificial intelligence themselves. Various diet apps can keep track of calories and determine a daily food plan. Cameras can take photographs and automatically post them to various social media sites such as Twitter or Instagram. Workout apps can automatically keep track of the amount of weights lifted in various exercises and even suggest alternative exercises based on one’s type of workout. Smartphones will even be able to track emotions and daily activities in the near future. In a report by the MIT Technology Review, researchers at Microsoft Research Asia have developed a software that mimics brain functions called “deep learning” (Metz, 2015). This software will be able to recognize facial expressions to decipher one’s emotions and even, through an accelerometer placed on one’s wrist, determine if someone is performing such activities as eating a bowl of soup or brushing teeth. These forms of artificial intelligence in the product of a smartphone are incredibly exciting as we move forward; however, the most popular and thought of artificial intelligence when it comes to smartphones has to be Siri. Siri, or Cortana in Androids, is a form of artificial intelligence that can answer almost any question asked to it. It does this by sorting through answers on the Internet or providing answers by searching the vast memory available to smartphones. Although this type of technology seems ordinary today, five years ago this type of technology was absolutely revolutionary. Being able to ask a machine a specific, personal question and receive a specific answer in return was something only seen in movies; however, now it is a reality.

I have always been interested in the idea of artificial intelligence, and what it could mean for us now and in the future. One medium in which artificial intelligence has been very prevalent, and a medium that I have enjoyed immensely throughout my life, is movies. I have always had a fondness for movies, especially sci-fi/action ones. One thing many of my favorite movies, including Star Wars, Terminator, and Avengers, all have in common is they heavily feature artificial intelligence. In Star Wars, the audience is introduced to C-3PO, a humanoid robot that assists the rebels.  The cyborgs in Terminator are sent from the future to kill Sarah Connor and her son.  Avengers has Iron Man’s artificial intelligence, named Jarvis, assist him with tech development, and the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron will see the team square off against a form of artificial intelligence in the maniacal robot Ultron, who is attempting to eliminate the human race.  What has always intrigued me about these movies is that humans either have to rely upon something that is clearly not human, as such is the case with Star Wars, or destroy a technology that man originally made to help the human race.

In my own life, I have experienced and used a multitude of examples of artificial intelligence. One of the first experiences I can vividly remember of using a form of artificial intelligence is when my parents bought their first GPS. A GPS, or global positioning system, is a form of artificial intelligence that can accurately determine the location of a person and calculate the most efficient route to the destination that person is trying to reach. It is considered artificial intelligence because, basically, it is a computer system or series of systems that does a task (give directions) that would normally require human intelligence to do. I remember being in awe of how the GPS knew where we were, not understanding the concept of satellite tracking. I was in further awe of how the GPS could search for a multitude of different businesses and places, including restaurants and gas stations. Nowadays, it is fascinating the level at which people depend on a GPS for navigation. Whether it is on their phone or a traditional setup, most people would be unable to navigate a few miles from their homes. Many people do not even know how to read a map anymore. A second form of artificial intelligence that I have a lot of experience with is video games. Video games are an example of artificial intelligence when instead of playing against another human opponent, one plays against the A.I., or commonly referred to as the “computer” by gamers. When playing against the “computer”, it makes decisions in the game that a human opponent would normally make; additionally, one can set the A.I.’s difficulty to easy, medium, or hard, depending on how difficult of an opponent one is willing to face.

There have been many positive outcomes that have come from the use of artificial intelligence in our world today. One field in which innovations in artificial intelligence have significantly helped those in the field is the field of medicine. For example, there are now devices that can be implanted into a person’s body that release the correct daily amount of medicine that person needs. Additionally, there are machines, such as life support machines, that are able to keep a person alive and keep track of vitals such as heartbeat and brain function. A second field in which innovations in artificial intelligence have been made is transportation. For example, pilots can now turn on the auto-pilot feature of an aircraft that will fly the plane by itself. This significantly reduces the stress pilots face. A third field in which innovations in artificial intelligence have been made is the military field. For example, there are now drone technologies that can locate potential terrorists and predict where they will be and the potential threat they can be. Not even ten years ago, this type of technology was only seen in science fiction.

Artificial intelligence is one of the primary scientific issues that has received many ethical and cautionary questions in the past few years. There are still a large portion of people who fear what artificial intelligence may do in the future.  In regards to AI in industry, these people fear that this technology will “eventually…think faster than us and…get rid of the slow humans to run companies more efficiently” (Holley, 2015). An example of this already being done has to do with the various automobile factories around the country, and even the world. Many automobile plant workers have been laid off because companies are deciding to use robots to build the vehicles instead. They are doing this because it costs less money and is more efficient. Famous scientists/technologists such as Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, and recently Steve Wozniak have all expressed their concerns with the emerging dependence on artificial intelligence. Extremists among this group fear these devices of artificial intelligence, in time, will become so powerful that they can be used by those in power to cause harm to others. In Langdon Winner’s article “Do Artifacts Have Politics?”, he states that a form of technology can be democratic or totalitarian. It simply depends on those who use the technology, and the same can be said for those who use new innovations in artificial intelligence.

In conclusion, artificial intelligence, in short, is a technology that uses a computer system to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence to do. Although there are forms of artificial intelligence that are very advanced, there are also examples of artificial intelligence, such as calculators, that although are simple, yet very useful in the lives of everyday people. Artificial intelligence has been portrayed in various movies over the years, both in a positive and negative light. Although there have been many positive outcomes from the development of various forms of artificial intelligence, including innovations in transportation and medicine, there are still many people who are cautious of continuing to developer newer and newer forms of artificial intelligence. The verdict is still out whether or not these new innovations will end up harming or helping the human race.

Works Cited

Holley, Peter. “Apple Co-founder on Artificial Intelligence: ‘The Future Is Scary and Very Bad for People’.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 24 Mar. 2015. Web. 01 May 2015.

Metz, Rachel. “Deep Learning Squeezed Onto a Phone.” MIT Technology Review. MIT Technology Review, 9 Feb. 2015. Web. 01 May 2015.

Winner, Langdon. The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology. Chicago: U of Chicago, 1986. Print.

Observation Essay on Artificial Intelligence

Many academic papers ask you to really think critically on a topic.  They require that you think hard on the topic, and do some type of critical analysis that helps you formulate your thesis.  The topic of this particular assignment for my blog post said to “write without any judgment”; keeping that in mind while I write this, I will attempt to take an unbiased view of the world around me as I reflect on artificial intelligence’s impact and role in it.

One way I think artificial intelligence has impacted society and the world is by causing people to depend on it so much.  Almost everyone, including myself, depends on some form of artificial intelligence or another that they are unable to live without it.  For example, I know that almost all of my friends cannot live without their phones.  They are always on them, whether they are checking different social media apps or texting other people.  Additionally, whenever I am walking around campus, I rarely see someone not using a some type of function on their smart phone, whether they are texting, listening to music, making a phone call, or doing any number of other actions.  I have only recently become significantly attached to my phone because I have not even had a smart phone for a year yet.  Although I have only recently become dependent on this form of artificial intelligence, I have become dependent on many other forms of artificial intelligence, which others have become dependent on as well.  One example is a GPS, which everyone nowadays seems to be using.  Almost everyone uses some form of GPS because we don’t attempt to learn directions anywhere nor look at a map.  I would be surprised if most people even know how to read a map anymore.  Another example of artificial intelligence people have become dependent upon is the calculator.  Most people cannot even do simple arithmetic in their heads or work it out on paper anymore.  They have to put simple multiplication problems into a calculator, and allow the calculator to solve it.

Now, what does this all mean?  How does it affect society as a whole on a mental and social level?  Well, through my observations, I believe that people have become increasingly lazy.  Whether it is looking up directions or exercising their mind, people have become too lazy to do the most menial of tasks.  We have even invented forms of artificial intelligence like devices that vacuum your house or mow your lawn by themselves.  We are even too lazy to do chores!  What does this mean for us going forward?  I believe that as we move forward, we will become too lazy to even move.  I know, this probably sounds a little extreme.  But the amount of physical activity we do today, even compared to that of 15 to 20 years ago, is staggeringly lower.  We are heading down a very slippery slope, one that we need to correct before we do too much damage to ourselves.

Class Archive

As I was looking through some of the previous blog posts, and remembering others throughout the year, one thing I noticed, and realized a few others also noticed, was the great variety of topics that we as a class have covered.  Blog posts have ranged from Egyptian funerary practices to sports technology to digital aspirin.  With our class wrapping up, and all of us exploring incredibly diverse topics for our final papers, I wanted to look back on one of the first topics we were all charged to write about—artifact politics—, and analyze how we all took a very different perspective on how to write about this topic.  I also wanted to look at one of the topics a classmate has chosen for his/her final paper—cinema.

Earlier in the year, we discussed how an artifact can have a certain political dimension after reading the work by Langdon Winner, and tasked with choosing an artifact and writing about its political dimensions.  I remember that I chose a gun, partly because I felt that it could have both democratic and authoritarian aspects when put into specific hands.  When going through all of the other posts about artifact politics, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the astounding diversity of topics we as a class chose.  Two posts that specifically interested me were about GPS and the pen.  The post about GPS really interested me because I had never fully realized all of the information wireless service providers, and even the government, had on us, which I believe to be an invasion of privacy.  The post about the pen also interested me because I never really thought about how influential, yet simple, an object a pen is.  I guess the saying “the pen is mightier than the sword” really is true.

Now to talk about one specific topic, which is cinema.  One student is choosing to write about cinema for his/her final paper, and this caught my eye because I have always had a special interest in movies.  I even considered writing about movies for my final paper, but ultimately  I have always been fascinated by the fact that two hours of film has the ability to change a person’s life.  Take The Wolf of Wall Street for example, a movie about a big-time executive on Wall Street during the 1980’s named Jordan Belfort.  After this movie hit theaters, many teenagers and college kids decided they wanted to major in business or finance so they could live the wild lifestyle shown in the movie.  One thing I enjoyed about this student’s post was how he/she evaluated the history of cinema, starting with a photograph and now today having CGI effects.  We discussed cinema in my communications class, and this student was basically spot-on when describing the history of movies.  I also like how the student described the evolution of film as an art form, from realism to surrealism.  One thing I would have liked for this student to include in his/her post is an analysis on the social impact cinema has had on society, particularly the United States.

In conclusion, I believe that we as a class have really developed a great blog site that analyzes various technologies and their different functions.  I hope that students in the future will look at this site and perhaps use it as a resource, or simply inspiration, for their own work.

Personal Research Reflection of Artificial Intelligence

As humans, we are influenced by a great multitude of things that can vary differently.  They can be abstract, such as dreams or ideas.  They can also be concrete, such as a beautiful landscape or a bustling city.  We are also influenced in many different ways.  We can be influenced both positively and negatively.  We can be influenced both consciously and subconsciously.  Many different influences have led me to write a research paper about artificial intelligence, and this blog post will describe these many influences.

Ever since I can remember, I have always had a fondness for movies.  I love how a director is able to capture a whole storyline in only a couple of hours.  Many of the movies I especially cherish are sci-fi action movies, such as Star WarsTerminator, and recently the new Avengers movies.  While these are only a few examples of such movies, they all serve a point for this post—they all include some form of artificial intelligence.  In Star Wars, the audience is introduced to C-3PO, a humanoid robot that assists the rebels.  The cyborgs in Terminator are sent from the future to kill Sarah Connor and her son.  Avengers has Iron Man’s artificial intelligence, named Jarvis, assist him with tech development, and the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron will see the team square off against a form of artificial intelligence in Ultron, who is attempting to eliminate the human race.  What has always intrigued me about these movies is that humans either have to rely upon something that is clearly not human, as such is the case with Star Wars, or destroy a technology that man originally made to help the human race.

In the Midwest of the United States, I have lived a pretty privileged life compared to others around the globe.  I have almost everything I want, especially when it comes to technology.  The artificial intelligence I use everyday, including my iPhone, laptop, and even my calculator would be seen as prized possessions, even rarities, in other parts of the world.  This is perhaps why I take a very conservative approach when it comes to artificial intelligence.  While others may view it as something that is spiraling out of control, perhaps one day leading to our extinction, I am unable to see it in this light.  My artificial intelligence helps me in so many ways everyday that I cannot imagine what it would be like to be without it.

One of the first real experiences I can remember with artificial intelligence was the first GPS my parents bought.  I remember being fascinated by how the device knew where our car was at all times.  I tried to think of how this was even remotely possible, not yet understanding the power satellites have in our world.  I remember asking it for close restaurants, and being astounded when a list of over twenty restaurants popped up on the screen.  I thought that it was the coolest invention ever.  Now that we live in an age where there seems to be nothing our smartphones can’t do, I don’t get that same feeling of wonderment I used to.  Though I do believe all of the great technological innovations engineers are making with artificial intelligence are great, they do not give me the same sense of wonderment as the GPS did because I have come to expect these innovations.

In conclusion, I first became interested in artificial intelligence through the many movies I watched growing up.  My first real memory of fascination with a physical source of artificial intelligence was my parents’ GPS.   Finally, because of my upbringing, I perhaps do not have some of the same reservations about the future of artificial intelligence that people from other parts of the country, even the world, do.

Artifact Politics – GPS

In modern society, it is often difficult to escape the clutches of technology and disconnect from the rest of the world. Even in our own homes, constant buzzing from cell phones and other devices reminds us that we are very much functioning in a new realm of technology. In most cases, simply ignoring text messages and social media seems like an adequate solution to this problem. However, rest assured that despite your best efforts, a GPS could still be tracking your every move. Within the last decade, GPS, or Global Positioning Service, has been a hotly contested issue for its powerful abilities and intrusion into politics.

GPS devices use satellite navigation to provide location and time data. Although maintained by the government, its capabilities are accessible to anyone with a GPS receiver. This form of technology was originally created for the use of the military, government, and other pragmatic protection services. However, GPS has evolved and is now used in many other forms. Cell phones, for example, all have internal GPS in order to provide navigation services, among other things.1

While this may seem harmless on the surface, Global Positioning Service has stealthily become an authoritarian political artifact. The location data collected from cell phones and other devices may not all necessarily be used, but the data still exists and is continuing to be collected by wireless service providers and, in some cases, the government.2 It is almost inescapable for the average person not to be tracked at all times. This creates an authoritarian political force in which the population is subordinate to a system that knows our past and present location. Consequently, people can be held accountable for acts committed when no one else may have been around to witness it, or limited other evidence exists.

This political artifact can be looked at in two ways: firstly, as an invasion of privacy and unnecessary tracking measure, or secondly, as a beneficial technological advancement that allows for improved safety among the American public. The greater question is whether the benefits of the latter outweigh the drawbacks of the former. When it comes to protecting our nation from foreign terrorism, as well as domestic crimes that endanger the population every day, GPS can act as positive political force.

There is always a limit to how far technology should go, though, and this very question was challenged in the 2012 Supreme Court case U.S. v. Jones. In this case, a GPS tracker was placed on the underside of Antoine Jones’ car, which the police used to track his whereabouts for 28 days and accuse of him of drug trafficking. The Court ruled that this was indeed a violation of unreasonable search and seizure and a violation of the Fourth Amendment.2 The ruling boiled down to the fact that because this tracking was done by a machine, rather than humans, it was a greater intrusion of privacy.

This court case may have ruled against such an extended use of GPS tracking, but GPS technology is still being used in many other forms. As with any new technological advancement, Global Positioning Service can be used for good or bad. Whether it is utilized for tracking down felons or unnecessarily recording innocent location data, GPS is here to stay and will only continue to dominate the politics of society.


1 “The Global Positioning System,” http://www.gps.gov/systems/gps/.

2 “FBI Still Struggling with Supreme Court’s GPS Ruling,” http://www.npr.org/2012/03/21/149011887/fbi-still-struggling-with-supreme-courts-gps-ruling.