Artificial intelligence (AI) has gradually become an integral part of modern life, from Siri and Spotify’s personalized features on our phones to automatic fraud alerts from our banks whenever a transaction appears suspicious. Defined simply, a computer with AI is able to respond to its environment by learning on its own—without humans providing specific instructions. A new report from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, outlines how AI could become more integrated into people’s lives by 2030, and recommends how best to regulate it and make sure its benefits are shared equally.
Here are five examples—some from this report—of AI technology that could become a part of our lives by 2030.
Smart traffic lights
Many people know the frustration of waiting at red lights while no traffic is moving through the intersection. Modern traffic lights typically run on a fixed schedule, with police officers occasionally intervening during special events and emergencies. So-called smart traffic lights are already able to use cameras and road sensors to adjust their timing minute by minute to handle traffic and pedestrians faster and more safely. By collecting data and making decisions independent of human guidance, such lights harness AI to adapt to the randomness of traffic. Easing traffic congestion in this way would not simply reduce commuting stress, but it would also cut down on air pollution from idling cars. Carnegie Mellon University is already testing smart traffic lights in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which are also being tested in Los Angeles, California, and Bellevue, Washington. By 2030, they will likely be on your corner.
Beyond the Nest thermostat and touchscreen fridges, 15 years from now, intelligent robots could be found all over our homes. Smart homes could learn what TV shows or music to play based on the person entering the room. They could also determine individualized light settings and temperature over the course of the day, depending on each person’s schedule. Pantries could remind homeowners to stock up for an upcoming party, send alerts when a favorite food is depleted, or suggest recipes based on their contents. AI would work with all of these by learning preferences and identifying characteristics about each person who uses them. On the wackier side, students at the University of New South Wales in Australia are creating a “Robocouch” that could move people to the fridge and back safely. Talk about couch surfing!
Despite all the recent advances in health care, the doctor’s visit itself has hardly changed—patients describe their symptoms to a physician, who conducts a physical exam. Smarter AI could let patients describe their symptoms to a computer that would instantly narrow down the list of possible causes, allowing doctors to focus their efforts on diagnosis. Through advanced speech recognition technology and the ability to independently compare symptoms to a database, a computer physician assistant could speed up doctor’s appointments and potentially reduce misdiagnoses. One day, an app could even help diagnose you at home.
Minority Report may have given the notion of predicting crimes a bad name, but AI will likely make it easier to keep communities safe by 2030. Many police departments already use data to analyze crime trends, but intelligent computer systems could one day analyze crime statistics automatically and in real time. By comparing crime locations and occurrences, AI could serve as an independent adviser to police commanders, making recommendations on where and when to deploy officers. AI could even analyze the relationships of suspects and convicted criminals to predict whom they could have interacted with. There are still issues with this technology—the data entered can reflect the biases of the programmers and officers, for example, and privacy concerns are numerous.
Class, you can call me Robot
By 2030, your teaching assistant (TA) might not be human. AI could quickly respond to the panicked questions of undergraduates, while also assisting professors in grading. Computer programs and even humanoid robots could learn the strengths and weaknesses of individual students and develop personalized assignments for them. By harnessing AI, a computer could respond independently to students in a way that feels human. This year, the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta used an AI TA to help run an online course. Almost none of the students recognized that their queries were being answered anddiscussions encouraged by a computer program. Robots could also become full conversation partners, not just electronic textbooks, for language students worldwide.
(Video credit: UNSWTV)