The term “artificial intelligence” was coined fairly recently in 1955, but the idea of smart machines that do our bidding has far deeper roots, going back to the ancient myths of Greece, India, and China. Perhaps that’s why AI has such an impact on our imagination, and why, in recent years, there’s been so much hype surrounding the technology.
But AI is not a myth, nor is it a magical machine. It’s a technology like any other, that, after decades of research, has reached a new plateau of productivity. Cheap processing power and abundant data have made this possible, and AI and machine learning are now useful tools in a diverse range of fields, including astronomy, health care, transportation, and music.
After years of promise, AI is finally becoming useful. But what usually happens to useful technologies is that they disappear. We forget about the things that just work, and we shouldn’t let that happen to AI. Any technology destined to change the world needs scrutiny, and AI, with its combination of huge imaginative presence and very real, very dangerous failings, needs that scrutiny more than most.
So, for the AI Issue at The Verge, we’re taking a closer look at some of the ways artificial intelligence and machine learning are affecting technology right now — because it’s too late to understand something after it’s changed the world.