World trending now – artificial intelligence

By Engr. Edgar Mana-ay


Man was created by God “a little lower than the angels” so that he was endowed to possess the natural intelligence to have dominion over all other creations on earth. Because of this inherent intelligence, man is even able to create machines which can almost duplicate the minds of man itself. This field is now known as ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE OR AI which are used to describe machines that “mimic” cognitive functions (the process of knowing, supposedly an exclusive domain of humans) such as learning and problem-solving. This intelligence demonstrated by human-created machines does not involve consciousness and emotionality as displayed by humans and animals.

Latest machines (computers) have become increasingly capable to successfully “understand human speech”, can compete at the highest level in “strategic games” like chess, including imperfect information game like poker, and even take over driving of cars, or in perfect routing and dispatching of content deliveries as in the FedEx business. In fact, Hollywood has glamorized AI by coming up with blockbuster movies like Robocop.

The traditional goals of AI research include reasoning, knowledge representation, planning, learning, natural language processing, perception and the ability to move and manipulate objects. The AI field draws upon computer science, information engineering, mathematics, psychology, linguistics, philosophy and many other fields. AI was founded on the assumption that human intelligence “can be precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it.”

The AI industry is practically unknown in poor countries like the Philippines but in Israel, it is spending $1.6 billion in the next 5 years to fuel a bustling public and private startup industry in Artificial Intelligence. The first step is building of supercomputing infrastructure and regulate its use for the academe, defense and industry. The second step is promoting natural language processing, meaning the computer’s ability to understand language both in Hebrew and Arabic. The third element is to increase HUMAN capital in the academe because leading AI researchers move overseas (mostly in the US) for their academic careers.

In the US for example my grandson in a public high school, because he is outstanding in academics, is thrice a recipient of a research grant from the US government in partnership with private companies and being paid a hefty amount by Uncle Sam. The first research was on a nano study of carbon fiber for space ship use, done at the laboratory of Rice University in Houston, the second at Iowa State University in Des Moines, Iowa and the third with the US Armed Forces bank in San Antonio, Texas. Just like the Israelites, the Americans are also in the forefront in developing its human resources starting with its students.

The 4th element is creating a regulatory environment that supports AI applications. The government’s main objective is to bring a change in the use of AI, which will lead to increased labor productivity, contribute to economic growth and improve quality of services to the public.

In Israel, one of the biggest successes in AI applications is Mobileye Vision Technology which provides technology for autonomous vehicles. The company develops image processing algorithms to interpret images from conventional cameras, to see traffic. Now Mobileye aims to start trials of SELF DRIVING CARS in Israel next year, with hopes of commercializing a robo-taxi service.

Israel also aims to be a world leader in medical application of AI by developing algorithms that use patient data and lifestyle information to speed up diagnoses. Hospitals are amassing huge and valuable data and there is a great potential of opening it for AI use.

Incentives given by the Israeli government is to allow AI researchers the flexibility to work between the university and private sector. Opening more positions in the Computer Science Department around the country will encourage excellent Jewish researchers around the world to return to Israel. This is the academe ALIYAH (unlike the English word “immigrate”, aliyah in Hebrew is to go live in Israel but the literal meaning is “to go up”, implying, therefore, the moral and spiritual superiority of living in Israel).

Investments by the armed forces and the intelligence service like the Mossad in high tech surveillance tools increases AI progress in Israel. The Times of Israel reported that an armed robotic vehicle called the Guardium has been used in the Gaza border. Another Israeli company, Rafael Advance Defense System, said on its website that it has developed a bomb that can use autonomous capabilities to navigate and correct its location in an environment where global positioning system has been inactivated.

We go to the application of AI in battling the Covid-19 pandemic. In advanced countries like Israel, AI tools can help in many ways. They are being used to predict the spread of coronavirus, map its genetic evolution as it transmits from humans to humans, speeds up diagnoses and in the development of potential treatments, while also helping policymakers cope with related issues such as impact on transport, food supplies and travel.

BUT in all cases, AI is only effective if it has sufficient examples to learn from. As Covid-19 has taken the world into unchartered territory, the “deep learning” systems, which computers use to acquire new capabilities don’t necessarily have the data they need to produce useful output.

“Deep learning” is good at predicting generic behavior but is not very good at extrapolating that to a crisis situation when almost everything that happens is NEW as with the covid pandemic. If people react in new ways, then AI cannot predict it. Despite this, a robust AI-based mathematical models are playing an important role in helping policymakers understand how Covid-19 is spreading and when the rate of infections is set to peak. By drawing on data from the field, such as the number of deaths, AI models can help to detect how many infections are in the dark (the undetected cases that are still infectious). US biotech Insilico Medicine is using AI algorithms to design new molecules that could limit covid-19’s ability to replicate in cells. The company says it has taken advantage of recent advances in deep learning to remove the need to manually design features and learn a non-linear mapping between molecular structures and their biological and pharmacological properties.

As we enter year two of the pandemic, there is great hope that mankind being the most intelligent creature is also coming up with new inventions to finally end it. For according to Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882): “BEWARE WHEN THE GREAT GOD LETS LOOSE A THINKER ON THIS PLANET”.