In the last ten years, artificial intelligence has changed the world in subtle but sweeping ways, but it’s got nothing on the coming decade, if you look at what’s being developed today. Voice recognition on every smartphone were simple proofs of concept. Over the next 10 years, artificial intelligence will make more progress than in the fifty before it, combined. With countless quickly oncoming applications to business, government, and personal life, its influence will soon touch absolutely every aspect of our lives.
Here are 25 surprising ways life and society that will be forever changed by artificial intelligence over the coming decade.
Cooking is perfectly suited to A.I., since it basically just requires knowledge of how a list of ingredients get combined in different ways, in different amounts. Products like the Hello Egg can not only help find and execute recipes more easily, but watch your eating and cooking habits to design meal plans that improve health. True, some past experiments in getting A.I. to design tasty meals haven’t gone so smoothly, but don’t forget that IBM is on the case now, and Chef Watson likely has some inventive new ideas just around the corner.
It might not work quite right just yet, but Amazon’s quest to make physical shopping even less hassle than online is only possible at all thanks to the advanced A.I. technology behind it. Online shopping algorithms are a dime a dozen these days, but one fascinating project from Pinterest could expand the idea to the physical world. Prediction will also play a bigger role than ever, as everything from Etsy to Amazon itself begins using A.I. to suggest the perfect product to shoppers, and to make sure that product is stocked up, back at the warehouse.
23. Paying For Things
Terribly named as the aforementioned “Pay With Your Face” technology may be, it could also save an incredible amount of time. Advanced A.I. face recognition algorithms will soon be quick enough and cheap enough to support millions of transactions per day, but machine learning can teach a computer to recognize more than faces. Wells Fargo and others plan to secure some financial transactions with equally advanced “biometric” analysis of a user’s voice.
22. Running a Business
It’s admittedly a little difficult to trust anyone who genuinely thinks the phrase, “Pay with your face” is going to take off, but Alibaba’s Jack Ma has a compelling point in the above talk: in the coming decades, the world’s best CEOs might just be robots. If management is the process of noticing and properly assigning talent, then an A.I. might well be better able to do that. Then again, others like Singularity University’s Nell Watson think that the rise of A.I. might make people so capable of organizing on their own that managers become less important, altogether.
21. Picking a Date
Now, this is crucially different than landing a date, though with a good-enough algorithm that might be made easier, as well. The idea is that A.I. could get to know you well enough to essentially do the Tinder swiping for you. Tinder chairman Sean Rad was recently quoted as saying the company wants the app to notice that a user is looking for something to do, so it can “pop up and say, ‘There’s someone down the street you might be attracted to.” She’s also attracted to you. She’s free tomorrow night. We know you both like the same band, and it’s playing — would you like us to buy you tickets?’”
It’s tough being out in the game, and some people just need practice. While an A.I. will (hopefully) never offer a real replacement for human interaction, it could soon offer a pretty good test run. A.I. chat-bots are starting to crop up, ostensibly to provide training in basic interaction with the opposite sex. Don’t think it could work? Cleverbot has already managed to successfully chat up a fair number of ladies on OKCupid.
The news is in, straight from the website built specifically to cater to the future sex-doll market: truly advanced sex A.I. is on the horizon. The famous RealDoll is getting in on the sex-bot gold rush, and designing an A.I. partner that learns from the owner and evolves to create a “real” relationship. That might sound like we’re just headed toward sex-crazed male fantasy robots — but A.I. could just as easily be used to make more realistic cyber-romance, too.
18. Raising a Pet
A.I. won’t replace the experience of having a child anytime soon, but what about a pet? The constant, loyal presence of a furry friend can be just what some people need to get through the day, and an A.I. companion could even play soothing music at the same time. Not only are household robots becoming cute, lovable, and even vulnerable, but their minds are starting to be able to replicate some of the most crucial aspects of pet intelligence. It’s not just about loyalty — soon, A.I. will be able to grow up with you and form a lasting connection as its personality evolves before your eyes.
17. Making, Criticizing, and Discovering Music
Pandora long ago sold the public on the idea that computers can break music down to its components, then analyze those components to find similar music in the future. What’s intriguing about the A.I.-powered future for this idea is that with new technologies available, curators no longer need to wait for a listener’s active feedback on songs. A.I. can already analyze music well enough to create its own human-inspired songs, and that ability to dive into things like genre will be crucial to wider applications. In particular, Google’s Magenta seems to be building the sort of robust understanding necessary to create A.I. music curators, and even A.I. music critics.
The rise of A.I. could completely upend one of mankind’s oldest professions: bookies. It’s one thing to ban card counting in casinos (either with a biological brain or an A.I. neural net) but quite another to restrict bets made remotely. How will an unassisted human being beat the odds, in a world where an A.I. analyst can take into account every shot a basketball player has ever made (or missed)? A.I. can come up with its own novel predictions based on data, or it can aggregate the predictions of experts. Either way, it’s questionable how much of a future human competitors will have in picking winning options, or even complex games of skill, like poker. In the future, the only time a human could “beat” a machine in a game of chance could be when playing a slot machine.
15. Political Analysis
Right now, there are A.I. working to discern the inner workings of Donald Trump’s mind, and to intelligently aggregate his many gaffes into a coherent news feed. With the public up in arms about the idea of bias in news, there could very easily be a swing toward a (seemingly) less biased alternative. As always, the Japanese are ahead of the robot game when it comes to artificial newspersons.
14. Road Trips
Elon Musk loves to talk about self-driving road trips, and he should; by letting people sleep on the freeway, self-driving cars could make short-distance flights far less necessary. This is probably the most sought-after aspect of fully autonomous cars, more even than the elimination of driving during the daily commute to work. It could totally change the nature of mid-range travel, and allow the creation of a new class of mobile workers who literally never settle down, at all.
13. Making Traffic Fun
By now most people are aware that self-driving cars will dramatically reduce the amount of time spent in traffic, but when fully autonomous vehicles hit the roads and allow drivers to totally forget the road, a whole new portion of the day can become productive. What used to be a mandatory 45-minutes spent staring at the tarmac may soon be 20, spent reading a book or chatting with friends. In the video above, we can see how computer scientists are already thinking about how to take advantage of a self-driving revolution that hasn’t even happened yet.
12. Active Scheduling
A.I. helpers like Siri and Google’s new Assistant have always at least attempted to help their users schedule their various appointments, but it’s only with the very recent introduction of artificial intelligence that these projects have managed to do more than remember past appointments and repeat them. Now, and especially in the near future, A.I. can read and understand your conversations to actively pull out scheduling info. If someone says that you should hang out next Thursday after the show you’re both attending, machine learning algorithms can now parse these references to pull out their real meaning, and suggest a scheduling point at the time you actually want.
11. Doing Your Homework
Not long ago, an A.I. managed to perform as well as most humans do on a standard math SAT. That means it had to read and understand the questions on its own, including the diagrams, showing that A.I. is beginning to be able to not just solve but define problems, and some basic solutions are already making their way to regular app stores. In schools of the future, it might not make sense to assign that sort of problem-based homework, at all.
10. Sports Strategizing
The strategy of multi-player team sports is too complicated for A.I. — that was always the conventional wisdom. Yet now, even given the nearly infinite variability of human behavior and ingenuity on the field and rink, it seems that artificial intelligence could soon design all-new strategies for even the world’s best-studied sports. The beautiful game has been successfully broken down and understood, in its basic principles, by a machine learning algorithm, and according to the inventor of that algorithm, it should apply quite well to other “continuous” sports like basketball and hockey. A whole lot of teams are taking notice.
9. Sports Training
A.I. might design the perfect offensive formation, but the human players enacting that plan have to have the necessary skills. Once again, modern machine learning algorithms can help. Partly, it’s just a matter of collecting data in wider and wider contexts, through smart golf clubs and basketballs and baseball bats (above). But A.I. could also provide more active feedback, like by watching your swing to offer corrections. And, of course, the granddaddy of all machine learning applications is fitness, which is basically just data given human form. Will we all become more healthy thanks to A.I.? Probably not. But with A.I. we’ll have far fewer excuses left to hide behind.
8. Global Propaganda
Distributed “botnets” designed to attack and harass over the internet are nothing new, but the autonomous propaganda efforts of actors all over the world are starting to truly come into their own. There’s even an A.I. company selling electoral “management” (read: manipulation) to the highest bidder. Its approach is to use A.I.’s power to crunch large volumes of data to design the most effective possible political campaigns. These days, that means setting A.I. to do careful political control of an individual or a party’s messaging, aka propaganda.
7. Border Security
Farming person-tracking out to A.I. is a no-brainer. Face recognition could take a huge proportion of the responsibility to stop incoming undesirables off of border agents, and could greatly reduce wait times at border crossings. The U.S. government is very interested in biometrics for border security, up to and including monitoring fenced stretches of border for illegal crossings. The Trump Administration has refused to embrace an A.I.-based “digital” wall with Mexico, which would track incursions with cameras rather than stopping them with concrete, but it’s notable that the proposition arose as a credible possibility, at all.
6. International Cyber Defense
One of Edward Snowden’s more shocking revelations was not that the NSA had begun using A.I. to augment its cyber-defenses (that should have been assumed), but that it was used its new A.I.-born capabilities to partially automate national security, and even counter-attacks. The MonsterMind platform can take automatic retaliatory action against the world’s many hackers, an ability that Snowden has called the worst thing he saw in his time at NSA. We don’t have any information about how effective MonsterMind and similar programs are at present, but we know they’ll play a major role in shaping global cyber-security in the future.
5. Corporate Cyber Defense
The novel Neuromancer predicted it: automated cyber defense intelligences. Everything in security in an arms race, and no matter how talented the security expert, their puny human finger-speed simply cannot hold a candle to the speedy attacks of an automated botnet. Over the next 10 years, and in fact over the next 10 months, we will see large proportions of cyber-security offloaded to automated techniques. As BlackRidge said at the opening of their recent study on the subject: Cyber defense automation is an imperative.
4. Translation and Linguistics
To an extent, real-time machine translation already exists from major tech companies like Skype and Microsoft. But other research bodies like Google and even DARPA are looking to take the idea even further. Machines can currently only even try to translate about 100 of the world’s more than 7000 languages — it seems certain is that whether it’s the military or international corporations or just regular old academia, someone is going to use A.I. to push real-time translation forward and let us all talk to everyone, very soon.
3. Financial Services
There’s a certain enjoyment in watching bankers get automated into unemployment, but the real win for the little guy will come when the A.I. really take over. Right now, the financial services sector has a lot to do with why the rich get richer — they can afford to hire more and better financial help to manage the money they have. With A.I., especially open source fintech solutions, it could be possible to change personal finance to put it on a much more even playing field.
2. Legal Advice
This makes a lot of sense: laws are supposed to be totally mechanical, so why couldn’t they be handled by a mechanical lawyer? The reality is that, for high-level lawyering, it’s precisely the ability to see around the rules that make a lawyer successful. Where A.I. could really change society, at a deep and fundamental level, is in providing half-decent defense to those who cannot afford adequate human representation. In many places, the public defense corps is an unmitigated disaster — but A.I. don’t get tired, or jaded, or immediately judgemental. They will provide an adequate legal defense to millions of people who currently do not receive one. Played out beyond the 10-year timeline, this could have some of the furthest-reaching implications of any entry on this list.
1. Medical diagnosis
Complementing a doctor’s human intuition with the precision and completeness of A.I. could be one of the greatest revolutions in healthcare since hand-washing. Listen to doctors think about the possibilities. The simple fact is that the human race has produced more overall understanding of human health than any one human brain can usefully contain, and A.I. are quickly starting to out-perform even the best human docs. Even faced with a totally binary decision between all-human and all-A.I. care, in 10 years time, how many people will be willing to opt for the better bedside manner?