A Westworld Future: How does AI fit into our futuristic dreams?

If you’ve watched the season finale of Westworld Season 2 (don’t worry, no spoilers!), you may be feeling a little uneasy about the future, researching just how far we’ve come in AI and machine learning these last years, and wondering how advanced it really is behind the scenes, beyond Alexa, Siri, and customer service chatbots.

Robots can walk on two legs now

It’s not quite AI, but it’s a scary, exciting, and monumental leap forward in tech that we have finally got robots walking on two legs, navigating uneven ground with ease. Cassie, bipedal child of Agility Robotics, can stay steady and upright, even after being shoved in the abdomen. 

Just a few years ago it was proving near impossible to get a robot walking on two legs without toppling over at the slightest bump in terrain. Progress is fast – and not just in robotics.

Artificial Intelligence ≠ Machine Learning

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been around for an age, and is a broader term to refer to machines carrying out tasks in a “smart” way.

The advancement of AI has lead to the rapid development of a subset of AI – Machine Learning (ML). ML is our current application of AI, and is what we are talking about right now in the current tech climate, in this article (and in Westworld, too).

Learning like a human, without the human error

How does a machine learn?
Digital neural networks.

Sounds a bit scary, right? Machine Learning is possible due to the development of digital brain-like neural systems, helping computers organise and learn information similar to the human brain.

“Machine Learning applications can read text and work out whether the person who wrote it is making a complaint or offering congratulations. They can also listen to a piece of music, decide whether it is likely to make someone happy or sad, and find other pieces of music to match the mood. In some cases, they can even compose their own music expressing the same themes, or which they know is likely to be appreciated by the admirers of the original piece.”

Human-like learning with more speed and accuracy, with none of the human bias or mistakes

Communication with AI: Mimicking connection

Agility Robotics Cassie

It seems we want to communicate with our digital creations as we would a human, making the smallest of tasks at home (turning on the lights, changing the music) even easier than before. This rise of Natural Language processing (NLP) such as Siri, Alexa and Cortana brings us one step closer to that human-like connection to digital beings.

Mimicking that verbal human connection is scarily demonstrated in the 2013 film Her: Joaquin Phoenix’s character falls in love with an AI who is programmed to build these connections with, well, anybody else that purchases her.

Are we heading towards an AI digital apocalypse?

We’ve long been self aware of our fascination with AI advancement: science fiction such Resident Evil, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and more, demonstrates that. We certainly love to model our digital creations on ourselves so if it became within human capability to create digital beings with all of the intelligence and none of the human error, a robotic takeover could certainly be a possibility in a far flung future.

Well… that’s if we don’t manage to use up all of Earth’s resources and have to move to another planet – but that’s for another blog post.