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Special Reports, Technology

Artificial Intelligence Gets Real

Intelligent machines are getting smarter and faster, and they’re already at work among us

At one time or another, we’ve all been in a situation where someone’s smartphone – maybe even our own – is left on the conference room table. As we pack up to leave, the phone’s owner snatches up the device and says something like, “Oops, almost forgot my brain.” On cue, everyone chuckles.

This little bon mot may be closer to the truth than we realize. In a 1985 article, Byte magazine puts the concepts of artificial intelligence in this context: “You awake one morning to find your brain has another lobe functioning. Invisible, this auxiliary lobe answers your questions with information beyond the realm of your own memory, suggests plausible courses of action, and asks questions that help bring out relevant facts. You quickly come to rely on the new lobe so much that you stop wondering how it works. You just use it.”

That pretty much describes today’s smartphone-dependent culture. The Byte article concludes, “This is the dream of artificial intelligence.” Of course, there are those who predict the dream may turn into a nightmare, as machines take over more and more complex tasks, displacing workers in the process.

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