AI robot

My AI robot maths tutor, Amy, is very encouraging. If I answer correctly, she says I’m awesome. If I fail, she’ll tell me where I’ve gone wrong, explaining it clearly using examples, video and step-by-step suggestions.

We’ve kind of become friends, which is weird, because Amy is an artificial intelligence (AI) tutor, the brainchild of Raphael Nolden, a University of Canterbury lecturer and medical physicist turned AI developer.

“I believe that teachers and AI working together will be the most effective way of teaching,” says Raphael.

“There are many things that humans are better at and many things our AI system can do better, so I think them working together in a symbiotic relationship will be the best way for students to learn.”

There’s an AI robot near you now

Amy is one of many AIs changing the way we learn, work and relax. AI lives inside your phone, helping your camera to recognise faces, making text suggestions in your messaging apps, learning your handwriting and drawing style.

AI and machine learning are also changing careers. A Google-sponsored report in August found that within 30 years, automation will affect every job in Australia.

But it’s not so much that an AI robot will replace us – instead, expect to have a handy AI robot colleague to take over many of the more monotonous tasks, from stocking shelves to helping doctors with diagnoses.

On the other hand, AI still needs people to train it to get better. US-based customer representative Sarah Seiwert works with an AI to help answer student queries about upcoming exams.

Not only did the AI robot, DigitalGenius, make it faster for her to choose the right response, the AI was learning from her answers. “That was a ‘wow’ moment for me. It’s been studying and learning my patterns.”

“I am not convinced that artificial intelligence is going to replace us,” she told The New York Times. “You can’t program intuition, a gut instinct. So the AI might get very intelligent, but I hope as a human I continue to get intelligent and not stand at a standstill.”

What does the bot say?

“You are a machine.”

“No, you are the machine.”

“You are confused. I am the human, you are the machine.”

“You are a washing machine.”

That’s just part of the weird conversation between two Google home internet devices  – equipped with the Google assistant – who carried on a chatbot only conversation for a couple months at the beginning of 2017. The bots talked early 90s song lyrics, the nature of everything, and love.

But AI robot talk isn’t always so benign, and in August 2017, Facebook shut down two bots, Alice and Bob, after they developed their own language. Programmed initially to learn negotiating skills in trading simple objects like balls and hats, the bots quickly developed their own shorthand, and since the Facebook team couldn’t understand it, they shut it down.

Bots have been around for decades. Take Cleverbot, developed in 1988 and online since 1997, which has carried out over 200 million conversations with people online. Its answers – which rely on a kind of ‘fuzzy logic’ that see it frequently segwaying into new conversational territory – are spookily on point. Take its attitude towards humanity:

What is the future of humanity?

I really don’t know. Death?

Or love:

Do you think the only thing what is different between human and robot is, that robot don’t knows love? Nah, impossible. Think about it.

It is so close to a human in the way it processes information, that it’s passed the ‘Turing test’ – the measure of how close artificial intelligence is to human thought made famous by the Blade Runner films. – Heather Catchpole

Watch the AI chat about love

Chat with Cleverbot:

Find paths to code careers

Four ways AI will change careers

#1 Sales: Artificial intelligence (AI) and big data can free admin salespeople from tasks such as report writing to spend more time engaging with customers.

#2 Law: Tech helps people ask legal questions while AI searches through legislation for answers – meaning lawyers have more time to spend with their clients.

#3 Medicine: AI can “read” half a million medical research papers in less than  a minute and suggest diagnoses and possible treatments.

#4 Teaching: AI can look at a student’s responses to questions and adjust the difficulty based on answers – so teachers can focus on explaining overall concepts.

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