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Oliver Hedgepeth column: What is artificial intelligence teaching you?
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Oliver Hedgepeth column: What is artificial intelligence teaching you?

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AI and Robot

In November 2014, a Kiva robot drive unit was seen before it moved under a stack of merchandise pods at an Amazon distribution center in Tracy, Calif.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is part of your daily routine at home and work, often going unnoticed. Do you ever have questions about why your computer or iPhone seem so smart? Even wonder when your text message replies are provided for you, and you just select the one of three answers to your friend? That is AI.

AI has been around since the early days of the computer and more these past 20 to 30 years. Watch or read the news and you will see automated vehicles being produced and robots moving boxes in a warehouse, replacing humans who moved that box just a few years ago. And the 2020-21 pandemic increased the use of robots in manufacturing and logistics as humans were laid off due to fear of catching COVID-19 and dying. This does beg the question of how best to use humanoid AI robots.

Besides the wearable AI technology on your wrist that used to be called only a watch, there are home vacuum cleaners, home security systems and automobile security systems that know who you are and if you need medical attention.

With this AI world surrounding us, there is an ethical and legal question about the use or misuse of AI and robotic systems. When an AI system is making decisions for you, who is at fault if that decision creates a death or financial failure?

Is an AI decision ethical or legal, or even risky? Most of us do not consider such a question if your smart TV decides what movies you should see at 9 p.m. Or when you open your laptop or iPhone to Facebook only to find that there is a great advertisement popping up for that art course you were talking about to a friend just the other day. Or you might see a pop-up for a new flower to purchase online to complement the one that just arrived this morning. All of these are not just people in some marketing department trying to sell you something new. Every keystroke you make on your internet-connected phone or computer is being tracked and your data being categorized into some kind of pattern to know what you like and what you might like to purchase next.

Is all of this invasion of your privacy legal? Is it ethical? Is it risky? The answer is maybe. Congress has yet to dive deeper into this area of how AI is monitoring your daily life at home, in your car, on vacation or at work.

What are any pitfalls of using an AI system or robot to replace a human? Well, losing your job is one pitfall. During 2020 and 2021, robots and AI systems have replaced workers in factories and warehouses. There are autonomous-driving delivery vans bringing your pizza order to your house or a drone flying your medical prescription to your front yard. While these are convenient, the person who used to drive that delivery van, truck or car is out of that job.

The use of AI and robots is an interesting question based on age it seems. Ask people who are in their 70s or older about such use of innovative technology. Ask someone who has yet to reach retirement age, and still wants to continue in that career he or she has been in for 20 to 30 years. Then ask someone who has just graduated from high school or college and maybe has been out of such schooling for 10 years — that is, someone who is 30 years old or younger. The answer of the use and impact of AI and robots will be different for each age group.

Where do you go for advice on purchasing or using AI or robotic systems? You have that laptop to search for such advice. And it is out there. But the advice for how best to use AI or robotic systems still seems up to you as the homeowner or as the business manager.

There are courses to take at many universities on the application of AI. These courses help you fill in the knowledge and usefulness gaps that you might have as you ponder purchasing a smarter TV, automobile or medical device. Start getting smarter.

Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth is a full-time professor at American Public University and the founding director of the Army’s Artificial Intelligence Center for Logistics, where he worked from 1985 to 1990 at Fort Lee. Contact him at: blh4835@gmail.com

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