Here’s an acronym that has gone from high thinking darkroom nerd zone ether to everyday common lingo and even general conversational fodder over a latte on a sunny afternoon with some friends. Artificial Intelligence or AI, this acronym seems to have evolved into the general public lexicon and is persuasively become a hot selling point for almost all electronics. Most of us see it every day now. It’s a listed feature that makes things “better than.”It’s the new “smart” term for technology and is wrapped into machine learning. It’s in TV and print ads, on stickers selling the new devices in the appliance store and even used when talking about your car or home.
But how many people even understand what it means? I don’t mean by dictionary term or industry term either. What does it mean in the relatable big picture? Or when you’re talking about it from the proverbial 20,000-foot view. Seriously, what does AI mean to your neighbor, your grandma or children? What about that buddy that rarely, if ever, looked at a dictionary (but has immense knowledge of long-forgotten Blockbuster film titles and has an undying love for all that is Sci-fi)? What’s their take on it?
It’s worth the ask if you haven’t yet. You’ll get a really good chuckle, trust me. Or at least you’ll be regaled into a lengthy conspiracy theory based on loose knowledge that has been drawn from the ever-accurate source of the internet, and it will most likely liken itself to some outer-worldly dystopian future that ends in misery. Oh internet, how your feeds make me laugh. Either way, it’s an enlightening experience hearing what people outside our industry think AI means, and furthermore, what it’s doing for us — or to us. (Que the creepy Sci-fi audio track here). Don’t get me wrong here; this dystopian craziness could happen. Billionaires like Elon Musk have sunk millions into thwarting attempts at war machine AI robotics. But let’s focus here.
For us in the AV/IT/UI/MR realms, AI is still just a concept. It’s a working theory that we can advance technology to a point that it can have independence and a sort of natural intelligence. A point where it could be self-aware and learn, adjust, decipher and react quicker, better, stronger and smarter than us, the almighty humans with natural intelligence. AI is certainly not what makes your washer dryer “smart.”Because your washer dryer and/or Alexa, well, it’s just an added program, an installed processor, some sensors and an internet connection with a group of people working to create a software application that shuts off the dryer when the sensor says it’s dry, and then you get an SMS text. This is not artificial intelligence. Asking Alexa something for it to Google for you or to send an on/off command to your lights — that is not AI. Your Nest turning on the heat that one night when you walk by… not AI. Sorry.
Ultimately, Artificial Intelligence’s biggest downfall is it depends on non-Artificial Intelligence: Natural or human intelligence has to create it. Or, even more so, we the natural intelligence humans need to create the program that creates the program that becomes or builds the actual AI program or even machine that has the AI program in it; it’s the chicken and egg dilemma, really. And no one has truly cracked this code yet. This pesky thing called human emotions and the truly unique human condition keep getting in the way of the ones and zeros. Maybe it will always just be a concept and a code that cannot be cracked. But, as this acronym has grown, we see it being applied to general appliances and used as a marketing term across so many verticals that it has diluted the dream of early AI adopters, true AI. Not the war machine robotic type of AI, but the type of AI that could help enhance our daily lives, could help save lives and could help us with some of the largest questions surrounding global issues plaguing humanity today.
Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy questioning the darker, headier concept of AI being used as a fearsome technology of a robotic apocalyptic future where robots take over humanity and we all burn in a blaze of glory as the Terminator walks through the inferno. Which, by all means, is super cool to watch in a movie. But in real-world reality, it should do more to enhance us, not delete us. Even the machine — if it was truly that smart —would know that.
AI is a reality, and there are some very smart applications for it. AI in AV helps us model and predict audio in a 3D realm, for example. This work used to be performed by mathematics and intense understanding of surface density and properties, reflections, movement and mass… a scientific endeavor. Now it’s an app, albeit an app intelligent enough to take all our inputs and apply programmed intelligence to put together a visually stunning graphic for us to interpret and apply. Or right now, we write code to control people’s homes and offices and even buildings, where we use a sort of AI programming technique to predict the most common uses and create an “If/Then” programming scenario. So, “if” someone enters the pool amenity, “then” turn on lights, set music to a certain level and alert the front desk reception of occupants in the pool area. If no motion is in the pool area for 30 minutes, then turn off lights, music and notify the reception the amenity is empty. This inherently helps us by saving time and money and involves no direct human inputs into a machine to accomplish the outcome.
But is this truly “AI,” or is that just us programming a processor and installing some sensors and devices? It is creating a certain ease of use, sure. We wouldn’t dare badge it “AI” —or would we? In today’s contextual lingo, one might say we should!
Or maybe when we look at AI in AV, we can look at content. We’ve heard a lot about AI-generated content that pulls “big data” from the wide world of “the internet” or similarly misunderstood technological terms fused with art world linguistics to confuse and bewilder the listener. When really it’s just abstract art being viewed on a display with possibly some abstract audio to enhance the experience. But the term “abstract” doesn’t sell — no one clicks or retweets. Whereas big terms, misunderstood technological terms especially — now that sells! People click, and everyone retweets and collects all the likes they can and the money follows. Because people simply do not understand it, it becomes exciting.
Remember what you heard from your neighbor, grandma and kids? AI holds mystery. It tantalizes our senses with the wonder of an artificially intelligent future, where audio and visual technologies transmit AI algorithms into an experiential landscape that thrills our collective senses.
It’s hard to say what our next exciting term will be. It seems as though “automation” was trampled by “smart,” and now smart has been trampled by “AI.” Words like “automation” have been relegated to the mail sorting room or manufacturing plant and smart TVs stopped support in 2019. So, what’s next for AV’s cutting-edge terms after AI fizzles out of our daily lexicon? Wait — this just in! “Artificial Consciousness,” no wait, “Artificial General Intelligence,” aka AGI…