Student Media Body of IIT Kgp


Artificial Intelligence: Motivation, Implications & Application

Posted on April 01, 2017
Reports AI

Mr. Himadri Hansda & Mr. Jacob Minz, two of our distinguished alumni, have had their views on the very much in fashion Artificial Intelligence, and the potential it bears to ease the lives of the humankind.

With the progress of mankind, many things have improved with the times. We have discovered tools & technology that can improve the quality of life. Health index, happiness quotient, in fact, our overall lifestyle has undergone a change for the better as compared to the last few decades with the advent of technology- primarily in the internet and portable devices. Life expectancy has improved owing to better medical facilities compared to the last few decades but has inadvertently given rise to the population explosion. One thing has, however remained constant with the planet earth, that is a man still does need food. This means that the same amount of land in earth has to feed more and more people.

Good thing is that we have made progress on Artificial Intelligence using a technique called Deep Learning (DL). Homo sapiens were not always on top of the food chain but they had something called intelligence which brought them up there. Now we have discovered technology by which we can impart some of our knowledge to the machines in order to make them learn and make them artificially intelligent. We all know machines can do repetitive and laborious work with a lot of ease and efficiency. With this extra bit of intelligence imparted through DL, we can now make the machines learn to "see", "understand", predict and safeguard our future.

AI through DL has excelled in making cars drive autonomously in controlled environments, diagnose and predict rare and deadly diseases just by "looking" at medical images even before the doctors. It enables intra-language communication as now the machine "understands" the unknown language for you and translates it back in your known language. It can "look" and identify your picture from among a gallery of friends. All these tasks are "intelligent" tasks that were only possible by humans. But humans being smart, taught the machines the techniques to deep learn, and made them artificially intelligent.

AI apart from permeating all major industry domains can also be used for better management of our agricultural resources, therefore improving productivity and minimizing losses by eliminating our food problem for the ever-expanding population. From predicting the right timing for sowing seeds to helping with precision irrigation, to the monitoring of the soil health, it can be pervasive in all nitty-gritties of farming. Using latest hovering technology, it can be your smart scarecrow which can fly and "look" around the agricultural fields to check for pests and at the same time monitor the health of the produce. DL with the latest robotics technology can be used for pulling out weeds from the crops for better growth and yield. DL can also be used for better monitoring & maintenance of the livestock health, as well as the health of the farmer and his family. You see, if we take care of the farmer, we take care of the mankind. With a little bit of AI, the machines can do some of the work while we enjoy our delicious food and keep making our world a better place.

Now imagine, the range of possibilities if our computing devices had human-like common sense. Before going further, let me quote Mark Zuckerberg, "Eventually, I hope AI will help computers have common sense—the capacity to observe the world and then generalize and learn from it. But we’re very far from developing that. And when we do, it will be because we reduced the problem to math, not magic".

Mathematics is the keyword here, it is something that enables magic, in my opinion. What we call Machine Learning (ML), is really a fancy word for curve-fitting. This curve fitting happens in a high dimensional space. A learning algorithm finds a mapping between an input X to an output Y. So, anything that fits this description is apt for machine learning. An example could be a mapping from images to bounding boxes of faces. Another way of looking at it is figuring out the density function, or the distribution that the data comes from. When we figure that out, we get equipped with predictive capabilities. We can guess the other half of the image by looking at the half of the image given to us.

Andrew Ng, the leading expert in Deep Learning and AI, says that AI is the new electricity and it will transform industries after industries. Just like electricity did at the time of our forefathers. We are asking you not to take Andrew Ng lightly, but grab this opportunity to capitalize on this transformation to revolutionize the agricultural, healthcare, industrial and every other socially relevant space. There are concerns regarding this area, but I guess they are premature. The idea of machines enslaving or annihilating humanity is certainly not to be discounted, but our current expertise is nowhere near giving machines that kind of capability. The way we see it, AI has a known upside in the short to medium term but an undetermined downside in the long term. Should we give up the upside for the uncertainty of an unknown downside?

Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves the following questions. What do today’s youth aspire for? What could be the enabling technology to help them scale new heights? The present generation of students must take the driver's seat of the innovation vehicle and steer India towards the glory that once made us the magnet for knowledge seekers.

The writers of this column Mr. Himadri Hansda & Mr. Jacob Minz have taken an applaudable effort to reach out to their alma mater and their successors, in a hope to kindle the flames of Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning, the futures of technology in the minds of emerging youths. They wanted to put forward different perspectives on the state of the art things. We wish to have this kind of connections with our alumni in near future. Suggestions and advices are welcome from readers’ side also. We will be happy to hear.

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