Machine Learning?

All we seem to hear about these days, aside from the typical political rhetoric of course, is artificial intelligence (AI) and whether or not it is helpful or hurtful. What we may not hear about as often, yet a subject which can be just as interesting, is the offshoots of AI and their potential uses and downsides. Take machine learning, for instance…

The AI subfield (quite possibly one of the most important) referred to as machine learning is what enables computers to learn without being programmed. In other words, machine learning is the capability of computers to program themselves, based on experience, to imitate human behavior. Machine learning is the ingenuity behind technological advances including vehicles that drive themselves, advancements in medical diagnosis and even the way we experience our social media.

Industries from banking to manufacturing and medicine use machine learning to improve efficiency by performing complex tasks and even solving problems. Machine learning can describe data, anticipate outcomes and suggest suitable actions based on that data. Its algorithms can recognize our preferences as we shop, which might be seen as useful or invasive, depending on your point of view. Its language processing capabilities are used for helplines, which also can be helpful or annoying, depending upon your perspective. Yet, machine learning also accomplishes some things which we can all agree are extremely beneficial, such as using image analysis to identify markers for disease prediction and pattern analysis to detect fraud. 

However, does the fact that machine learning is not always infallible and that it may produce unintended outcomes put us at risk in certain arenas? Are we accurately vetting any human bias incorporation which may perpetuate polarization? Can we ensure that machine learning isn’t used by criminals to harm us or our children? 

Whether you are intrigued by the world of possibilities that it creates or you are concerned about the associated risks, AI technology is moving forward at lightning speed. Hopefully we will be able to harness its amazing potential while eliminating its potential dangers.