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  • Dillon Slagle

Technology Update: Where are We?

According to the 80’s Sci-Fi film, Back to the Future, we should already be driving flying cars and have nifty tech for all of our daily needs. While we don’t have the capability to soar through the skies for our morning commute, we are on the brink of having completely autonomous (self-driving) cars. Unfortunately, this article from The Verge, states that many companies such as Tesla, GM and Google are delaying the release of the futuristic tech due to shortcomings in AI technology. Much of this AI technology is built upon a technique called deep learning, which uses layers of algorithms to decipher specific information. Unfortunately, deep learning does not allow AI tech to formulate broad concepts using specific information, which makes it extremely difficult for it to categorize and act upon novel information. Any driver understands the importance of being able to respond promptly in dangerous scenarios. Although, there have been a small number of accidents linked to autonomous driving technology, the number of incidents are too numerous for many individuals to feel safe behind the wheel. It is evident that the solution to this problem will not be found overnight, but that does not suggest that the quest for self-driving cars is at an end.

What do iRobot, Transcendence, and Blade Runner have in common? They all project a dystopian future overrun with AI technology, something that many people fear is inevitable. However, this article from Fast Company offers a few soothing words of wisdom on why there is nothing to worry about. Although AI machines surpass our ability to complete repetitive and straightforward tasks, they cannot complete abstract tasks such as problem solving in unexpected situations, something humans do instinctively. Also, while attempts at AI generated art and music have been made, AI technology still lacks the emotions and complex thought required to produce a memorable symphony or moving poem. Furthermore, the technology is able to find numerous amounts of data, but cannot use common sense to decide what data is important. Although computers are fast and accurate, it is vital to note that they still make mistakes just as humans do.

In today’s futuristic era, we have developed technology to make life run more smoothly. However, it seems that this convenience may come at the price of privacy. Many items such as camera security systems, smart TVs, smart doorbells and even smart thermostats can track when your home, what you’re doing, and who you are with. As one might imagine, this type of information is highly desirable by authorities trying to solve crimes. Many customers have become anxious at the idea of having their personal information shared without their permission. Therefore, many companies have been pressured to release transparency statements about how much information is being shared with authorities, if shared at all. Amazon, Facebook and Google plan on releasing statements for their most notable home products, if not having done so already. However, transparency statements may not be enough to convince customers that their personal lives are not being documented.

Recently, companies such as Amazon and Google have released voice activated products in order to make internet use more convenient and efficient. However, Facebook is deciding to jump on the bandwagon with their new product, Portal. Much like Alexa, the Portal will allow you to order items online via voice-command, but will also offer a large video display to make Facebook video chats more realistic and personable. The Portal also includes AI technology to track speaking individuals around the room (which may come in handy while multitasking). While the device may be useful for heavy Facebook users, it may be challenging to convince other customers to purchase the device, especially considering the recent scandals surrounding Facebook.

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