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Podcast: An Overview of Artificial Intelligence in Today’s World

Podcast: An Overview of Artificial Intelligence in Today’s World

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Podcast by Dr. Wanda Curlee
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Public University 

Artificial intelligence (AI) has permeated our lives in many ways. We use it in our homes to find information or for entertainment. In business, we use artificial intelligence for many purposes, including data analysis and manufacturing.

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In this podcast, join host Dr. Wanda Curlee to learn about the evolution of artificial intelligence and how it’s being used today. Learn about the benefits and pitfalls of this technology, how it’s being programmed to learn, how companies are using artificial intelligence to analyze mega-data, and some of the ethical issues surrounding the use of AI. Also, hear examples about how AI is being used during the COVID-19 pandemic to collect data, identify trends and develop vaccines.

Read the Transcript

Dr. Wanda Curlee: Welcome to the podcast, Innovations in the Workplace. I’m your host, Wanda Curlee. Today, we are going to be chatting about artificial intelligence and what it is and isn’t.

Today, I do not have a guest. I am Wanda Curlee, normally your host. I have been researching artificial intelligence for several years. Since many of my podcasts will be about AI, it is a good idea to give you a little background.

So what do you think about when you think about artificial intelligence or AI? Most people think about “The Terminator,” “Star Wars,” “I, Robot.”

To some people this can be a very, very scary thought, but let’s think about that. While in some aspects it is very scary, in other aspects it’s not.

When we can have robots or artificial intelligence that can help people, that is a good thing. So, I can assure you, right now we’re nowhere near “The Terminator,” or “Star Wars” or “I, Robot.”

And if AI is coded correctly, and I did say coded, I don’t think we ever will be. So, what is AI? Simply, AI is machine learning or machine intelligence.

I kind of stay away from machine intelligence because it sounds like that machine has a brain, but it really does not. So, sometimes it is called an intelligent agent. So if you ever heard about Siri, Alexa or Google, those are intelligent agents. Granted, they’re a little bit in their infancy, but they use AI and we’ll get into that in a little bit.

So all of these describe different types of AI. As I mentioned before, coding is involved. Remember: it’s a machine, it’s a software, so you have to have coders coding the data.

How is the machine going to learn? Some things that we might consider is what kind of ethics do we encode within the software? Do we use Eastern ethics, which is somewhat different than Western ethics?

For example, in Eastern cultures, they look out for their elderly and admire their elderly. And in fact, they would rather — if you bring up the thing of autonomous vehicles and the autonomous vehicle is given the choice of running over a child or an elderly person — in Eastern cultures, it is the child that would be run over, not the elderly person. But I’m off topic here.

So, let’s get back onto topic. So, yes, there is a beginning with AI and that is the coding part. Then there will be tweaking of the code.

Is the machine learning like it was coded to learn? Is it learning too slow? Is it learning too fast? Does it have the ethics that we expected or does it not?

So, the machine would have to be tweaked. There will be failures, and there have been many failures in AI to date.

So, we’ve got to watch for that. We’ve got to make sure that we learn from the failures. We’ve got to make sure that we understand how the AI is going to learn and if that’s the type of learning that we want to do.

So, AI also tries to mimic human or animal cognitive behavior. However, at this point, we really haven’t been able to do that, because the brain thinks differently and has neural networks.

And they’re trying to put the neural networks into AI, but those neural networks are different than what we have in our brains. So AI does well, but it doesn’t do like we do.

Granted, it can go a lot faster than our brains can comprehend in certain things, but in other things, it can’t. So let’s go to a modern-day thinking about AI. Think about the COVID-19 and what has happened to our world since this has started. Our lives have radically changed, but there was an AI that actually predicted that there was going to be a pandemic around this time.

And it actually foresaw it about six months ahead of time. It wasn’t an AI that was used by the government.

So I’m not even sure if the government or if people within the medical community would have even thought about accepting what this AI had brought about, but it’s interesting that it was actually predicted before it actually happened. AI is being used to determine where hotspots are occurring right now.

So, all of the data has to be gathered. And for humans to do that, it would take hundreds, if not thousands, of humans calculating all of the data that’s out there.

AI is wonderful at bringing in all the data and showing where trends are happening. AI is helping to diagnose. AI can visually see things, and I don’t mean like humans see.

But if you give it a chest X-ray and say, “I want to see other X-rays that have this,” and so what it can do is when you put an x-ray in there and it matches what it’s seeing in a COVID patient, it can then say, “Hey, this is actually…”

And I say, “Say.” It doesn’t really talk to us.

Although there are some AIs that talk, can say, “This is what is happening in this patient and this is how it compares to the one that we know had COVID.” So it’s interesting to understand that and it’s doing it, not only in COVID, but it’s doing it in other medical professions as well, medical diagnoses.

AI is helping to develop a vaccine. Moderna is one of the companies that is trying to develop a vaccine right now, and Moderna is known for using AI. It’s proprietary, so they don’t actually open up about it at all. So we need to make sure that we keep on watching what’s happening with the vaccines.

And I’m sure there’s other companies that are using AI. What do they use the AI for? Well, they will encode into the AI what the COVID virus looks like. They will then try to come up, within AI, what type of vaccine to develop, because there’s various vaccines. There’s vaccines that use the live virus.

It is not a virus that is going to get you sick, but there’s also a virus, a dead virus, that helps to create antibodies. And then there’s ones that mimic the virus. So there’s all kinds of different vaccines and I think we’ll see many come out, but understand that AI is using that.

So, I also talked about intelligent agents, so going off of COVID and other applications of AI. So, like I said before, think about Siri, Google, Alexa. When you ask a question or tell it to remind you, it is using AI.

So if I tell Siri, Alexa or Google to “Please help me find the latest on COVID,” it will go out and look at all of the data that there’s out there on the net and comes back to you with what’s the latest on COVID. So, it’s having to search out and look at all the data and then make a decision as to which one it gives you back.

Now, granted, Siri, Google and Alexa are being coded by their respective companies, so therefore what is returned is probably what is trending faster on those sites. So you’ll probably get a different version of what’s the latest on COVID on Siri than you would from Google, than you would from Alexa. So that’s what we need to understand about that, that just because AI is going out there and looking at it, it doesn’t mean that you’ll always get the same answer, especially if it’s done by a commercial company.

So, like I said, it analyzes mega-data. So, we can use AI for online advertisements. Think about when you go out to the Web and you’re looking for something. How does the Web know that you have just searched on, let’s say, buying a pair of blue jeans? Well, all of a sudden, you’ve got all of these advertisements for blue jeans. It’s based on AI and on your search history.

So, that’s how it’s going out there and finding. So how can we look at AI for reviewing data and analyzing mathematically for the best possible answers?

So this is great for businesses that have a lot of data that can be accessed by the AI software that they use, so they need to understand their financials. They need to understand their products. They need to understand advertising. They need to understand marketing. So if they have AI hooked in all of this data, they can come back and find out.

Then, let’s talk about research data. I’ve already talked about it in COVID.

So research data is now very keen in the areas of the medical sciences. So it’s not only for COVID, but they’re also using AI to help with manufacturing drugs, with finding cures for cancer and cures for other diseases as well.

Think about supply chain. Not too long ago, we were having a glut of everybody buying toilet paper. So supply chain could have seen this if they were using AI, and maybe recommended to companies to limit the number of packs of toilet paper or go back to the companies and say, “You need to start working on manufacturing more toilet paper.”

And that’s kind of what we saw. Project management [has] got to use a lot of data, especially on mega projects. Unfortunately, project management is not as advanced in AI as some other industries. And it’s a shame, because we do have mega projects in project management, and a project manager and the team cannot actually see and ingest all of the data that is available to help them out.

Think about the visual matches. That was one of the things that I said about COVID, that AI could look at the visual match between a COVID patient’s X-ray and somebody that might have COVID.

So, it’s used for not only that, but it’s also used for facial recognition. It’s used with mammograms; it’s used with other things. So it’s very good at understanding visual matches, but don’t think of visual matches as just human.

It can also do terrain. If you’ve got a picture of a piece of terrain that somebody took because they were burying a body or something, AI can go out and look at all the data from satellite imagery and be able to match that terrain.

So one of the best-known AI is Watson by IBM. And you may have heard that Watson won against two humans on Jeopardy; that’s because Watson can go out and analyze all the data that’s available that’s been encoded in Watson.

And if it’s an IBM, you know a lot of data has been encoded. And it might be taught to also go out to the internet and find the answers. It can do that in milliseconds, if not nanoseconds; it can go out there and find all that data.

And there was also another AI called Deep Blue that won chess against Garry Kasparov. Again, it had been encoded with all of the moves that any human had ever done in response, and which ones worked for that situation on the chessboards and which ones didn’t. It was able to do the move in less amount of time than Garry was and therefore it won.

So, let’s talk about AI. AI is here to stay. It’s not going anywhere. It’s going to be here to help us in the medical fields. It’s going to be here to help us with finding things that we never thought we could find.

It’s also being used for robots to care for people. There’s been robots used in Japan to help with the elderly. The robot can talk to the elderly and if the elderly keeps on asking the same question over and over because the person has dementia, that robot is going to answer the question over and over. And it’s not going to get upset or tired about answering it.

So will AI take over our jobs? Possibly. I think it will take over some jobs, especially ones that are a lot of manual labor, are repetitive tasks, but it will create other jobs.

Every time we’ve had new technology come on the forefront, there have always been new jobs created. So we have to be able to adapt to this new environment that’s coming, and I think it will be a better life for all of us.

So, I hope you’ve learned something about AI and look forward to the new and upcoming podcasts that we have on AI. I hope you will listen to all of them.

We’ll be looking at different industries, the law, et cetera. Thank you to our listeners for joining us today. It’s really been great.

You can learn more about this topic and similar issues in artificial intelligence by reviewing the American Public University System blogs. Stay well, and I’ll talk to you soon.

About the Speaker

Dr. Wanda Curlee is a full-time professor at American Public University. She has over 30 years of consulting and project management experience and has worked at several Fortune 500 companies. She has a Doctor of Management and Organizational Leadership, an MBA, an M.A. and a B.A. in Spanish Studies. Dr. Curlee has published numerous articles and several books on project management.

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