Virtual Humans: The Future of AI

Major Blog Series: Part III

Technology is advancing at an exponential rate. While it took roughly 10,000 years to go from writing to the printing press, it took just 500 more to go to E-Mail. Living through the pandemic has made us realize the need for technology to stay connected and updated with the happenings in the world. As discussed in the first two blogs of this series (AI and Logic), Artificial Intelligence forms a major component of this technology. The era we are living in was totally unimaginable 100 years ago. Now, when Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant are our all-time companions, AI seems to have an exhilarating impact on our everyday lives. From our favorite auto-correct to personalized recommendations based on our previous searches, everything has been made possible using AI. Hence, it would be no surprise for people to see humanoids roaming around in the coming years.

Our everyday routine includes a lot of direct interaction with AI. Starting from the minute we wake up, we have our personal assistants to guide us through our routine tasks, weather updates, and scheduled meetings simply using voice commands. To add to it, nowadays, the assistants have been trained to recognize multiple languages and respond as asked. Besides voice recognition, we also have our well-trained autocorrect mechanism, which learns from our typing history and suggests as well as corrects our wrongly spelled words. Sending a mail? Gmail is here to help with suggestions based on how we start our mail. Little things, creating big differences in terms of making our lives easier. Many of these technologies also give an impression of talking to and getting responses from a real person.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai On Stage in 2018. Google is working on an AI Assistant that can place human-like calls to make appointments. | Source: builtin.com

“AI is going to change the world more than anything in the history of mankind. More than electricity.” — AI oracle and venture capitalist Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, 2018

Today scientists have successfully come up with robots that can recognize most human gestures and even display the right emotions based on their surrounding environment. A giant breakthrough in technology is the first humanoid to get official citizenship of a country, Sophia. This social machine is not solely an outcome of Artificial Intelligence, as such kind of technology involves continuous and dedicated efforts from almost all the scientific fields one can imagine. One of those is OpenCog, a powerful AI system designed for general reasoning.

Does AI have the potential to change the world? Can it harm us? Can robots live in cooperation with humans? Or can they become smart enough to enslave humans? Let’s try to find out the answers to these ever-intriguing questions. AI has a great impact on almost everyone’s life. According to the AI expert, Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, it can potentially displace 40 percent of the jobs in the next 12 to 13 years. These jobs might not only include blue-collar jobs but many white-collar jobs as well. He warns, “The bottom 90 percent, especially the bottom 50 percent of the world in terms of income or education, will be badly hurt with job displacement…The simple question to ask is, ‘How routine is a job?’ ”. And this transition of jobs is not as easy as an affair as it looks like.

“In the future, if you don’t know coding, you don’t know programming, it’s only going to get more difficult.”

Talking to people, showing relevant emotions, reminding you for meetings, and coming up with recommendations, what else would one expect a virtual machine to do? Playing Games? That’s right! The Go-playing prowess of Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo is an example of the same. It’s a program, developed by Google, to play the board game, Go, and is currently known as the best Go player in the world.

“I thought AlphaGo was based on probability calculation and that it was merely a machine. But when I saw this move, I changed my mind. Surely, AlphaGo is creative.” — Lee Sedol, Winner of 18 World Go Titles

Source: Financial Times

Optimizing Artificial Intelligence for the next generation:
Human cooperation is one of the most powerful forces in human history, not only it includes communication, but it also involves teamwork, emotion, attention, communication, and empathy. Future technology shall focus on understanding each other intuitively, combining emotions with intelligence. The times are not very far when many of us would have humanoids as our personal assistants with whom we can talk and interact. This technology has already set its roots in some parts of the world, particularly in old-age care centers, restaurants, etc.

Started over seven years ago, Baby X is a recent AI-driven project that makes use of advanced technology to imitate the human brain. It's a combination of biological components put together to function in a synchronized manner. It aims to bridge the digital and human worlds, by significant research and consistent effort, using the following technologies:

  • Cognitive Linguistics
  • Advanced Computer Generated Imagery (CGI)
  • Biologically Inspired Cognitive Architectures
  • Neuroscience (study of the brain)
  • Cognitive Science
  • Developmental Psychology

What makes a human brain exceptional is its ability to build subjective opinions depending on the context and gravity of the situation. An AI-driven brain, on the other hand, makes decisions based on a limited set of constraints that are either directly fed to it or have been derived by it over time. This set of constraints is what forms logic. To define it formally:

“Logic defines a framework for inference and correct reasoning.”

Talking about virtual humans, let me also take the opportunity to mention another recent research, Virtual Influencers or VTubers. If this does not sound exciting to you, either you read about this before coming here, or you are not a tech-geek like me! Well, talking about our virtual friends, Barbie is truly an attraction. Yes, our favorite Barbie doll, who pursues a long list of careers, including princess movies, modeling, video games, and big brand name associated with herself, is on YouTube, influencing you with her fun-filled activity sessions for all age groups. This is not merely an animation, it’s a completely fictional robot. Knox Frost and Lil Miquela are some more famous examples.

Mattel, the creator company of Barbie, revealed in 2015 that it would soon include Artificial Intelligence. The belt button would also serve as a button to activate the speech recognition feature using which children can interact with the doll just like a real friend. She already knows almost 8000 dialogues and can learn and improvise depending on the conversations.

Can humans learn from AI?
Strangely enough, there’s a lot AI can teach us. And in case you didn’t notice, AlphaGo was an example of the same. Humans, mostly unconsciously, get highly influenced by their limited observations and experiences, and often stick to those for the rest of their lives. This influence can have an everlasting impact on their minds making them biased in making some choices, which might not be actually right in the real world. This kind of stubborn behavior and subconscious thinking is a behavior limited to us. Robots don’t have these traits. They go through thousands of patterns and images to fine-tune their records. Every time a new situation is encountered, they update their learnings. As per [7], Lee Sedol has stated his personal learning from his 4–1 defeat by AlphaGo in these comments:My thoughts have become more flexible after the game with AlphaGo, I have a lot of ideas, so I expect good results” and “I decided to more accurately predict the next move instead of depending on my intuition”. However, what if the virtual being is under a bad influence always?

Is AI dangerous?
What can be worse than a death threat? A real attempt to kill! Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) are artificial intelligence systems that use algorithms to set targets and employ a weapon system without human intervention. This, if misused by a malevolent, such systems can cause mass destruction. Therefore, handling and controlling Artificial Intelligence is a big responsibility in itself.

Source: Robotiq

Hence, the absence of the “sixth sense” in robots can be good as well as bad. How they learn is what matters. Well, there are numerous fascinating creations that technology has brought for us and continues bringing. AI is just another term, usually heard together with Machine Learning, Big Data, and Deep Learning. These similar-looking terms have a high correlation, but significant differences. Artificial Intelligence may not be the supreme controller, but is a very important component of technology. We, as humans, have spent so many years and are still spending so much time and resources on coming with a simulation of the human brain or simply “another us”. The far you go, the more interesting and complicated it becomes to realize the depth of this field. The examples I talked about are like drops in an ocean. This might be a conclusion of this series, but there’s a lot more to do: a lot more to explore, a lot more to learn, and a lot more to experiment with. What’s important is to keep your heart and mind open for new ideas and healthy thoughts. This article opens the door for you to build and be a part of what we call “the Future of AI”.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes to make you ponder upon:

“If the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn’t.” — Emerson M. Pugh, 1977

Would love to have any feedback or suggestions from your side :)
Thanks a lot for reading, and I hope it was insightful for you.

References:

[1]. Mike Thomas, “The Future of AI: How Artificial Intelligence will Change the World”, 2021

[2]. Andre Ye, “How DeepMind’s AlphaGo Became the World’s Top Go Player”, March 2020

[3]. Mark Sagar, “FOST: Future of Story Telling

[4]. https://www.soulmachines.com/resources/research/baby-x/

[5]. Dave Gershgorn, “Barbie Learns To Chat Using Artificial Intelligence”, Sept. 18, 2015

[6]. virtualhumans.org

[7]. https://www.swoopanalytics.com/blog/what-can-we-learn-from-artificial-intelligence