Society is worried that the new advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) will eventually lead to machines taking over our jobs or taking over our civilization in general. They are so fixated on the negative aspects of this technology that they don’t even realize when they are interacting with it everyday.
Artificial intelligence is no longer just a thought or a work in progress; it’s becoming a reality. We interact with it through our smartphones via personal assistants like Siri or Cortana; in our video games; through online recommended ads and services; and search and answer results. AI is already a part of our everyday life and is making our lives easier.
At the Georgia Institute of Technology, AI was used to help provide better support to students taking online classes. “The world is full of online classes, and they’re plagued with low retention rates,” said Ashok Goel, professor for Georgia Tech’s college of computing. “One of the main reasons many students drop out is because they don’t receive enough teaching support.”
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Goel saw the need for a better solution after he realized that the 10,000 messages his 300 students post in the class’ online forums were becoming too much for him and his teaching assistants. As a result, Jill, a virtual TA implemented on the Watson platform, was born. Jill was designed to answer questions clearly for Goel’s Knowledge-Based Artificial Intelligence course.
“Initially her answers weren’t good enough because she would get stuck on keywords,” said Lalith Polepeddi, a graduate students who helped develop Jill. “For example, a student asked about organizing a meetup to go over video lessons with others, and Jill gave an answer referencing a textbook that could supplement the video lesson: same keywords, but different context. So we learned from mistakes like this one, and gradually made Jill smarter.”
The professor didn’t tell his students that one of their TA’s was actually an AI system until the end of the semester. They were learning AI but were oblivious to the fact that they were constantly interacting with it.
There is a lesson to be learned here. AI comes in different forms and solutions, and it can be something that we least expect. While there still is a lot more work needed to be done in the artificial intelligence field, society should start thinking about how these systems can improve our lives and be designed in a way that avoids negative outcomes. They shouldn’t let their own fears and suspicions get in the way of innovation.