Episode 58: Technology Bytes. . .Artificial Intelligence

This is Technology Bytes, episode 58 for April 14th, 2024.

Technology Bytes is a microcast where I share brief bytes on interesting technology.

My name is Joel.

Enjoy, and here we go.

I use technology all the time.

We all do.

All different levels of technology, all different kinds of technology.

And even then sometimes in a weekly microcast, I’m wondering what am I going to talk about this week.

It is sometimes difficult to decide.

Sometimes things happen in a week where I’m like, oh, that’s definitely something I want to talk about.

And this week was one of those tougher weeks.

And this week I’ve decided to tackle something I don’t really know very much about.

And I don’t really use on a regular or even a non-regular basis.

And that is artificial intelligence, because that is all the rage, everybody talking about AI and what it does and what it might mean for the future of the world.

I’m not going to go that deep into artificial intelligence.

One, because I don’t use it as a, not as a rule, but on a regular basis like many who I listen to do.

And two, because I think there’s still so much to be learned and I’m not sure.

I just don’t know.

I guess I don’t have the knowledge.

I don’t use it, those kinds of things.

But I do think that it’s important.

I do listen to a number of tech podcasts and you can imagine that it gets brought up fairly regularly.

And while I don’t necessarily use artificial intelligence by paying for like a chat GPT or something like that, or using Copilot in the Microsoft world, or using the artificial intelligence of search on Google site.

I mean, all of that stuff is built in and even in my Apple world where I use Apple’s technology, they don’t really use the word artificial intelligence.

And so what do they even do it?

Many people think they’re behind.

So what does artificial intelligence mean anyway?

Well, the two words are not unfamiliar to the English language.

Artificial means fake.

It could be artificial flavoring.

It could be artificial colors.

It could be all kinds of different things and ways that we use that word.

And it really means not the real thing.

There’s something not real about it.

And then the second word is intelligence.

And that just means exactly what it says it means.

It’s like, how smart are you?

Or how much do you know about a given topic?

Or those kinds of things.

So two words that we’re very familiar with.

It’s when we put those two words together that sometimes we run into problems because people think of that as different things.

Some might say artificial intelligence is when a machine can think like a human without the help of a human.

Some may think it’s just the ability to use compute power, pure computing power, to read and absorb information at a rate and at a volume that is just not really possible as a human.

And so you feel like the machine has some intelligence even though it may be artificial because it’s just learned to put words together by reading how other people put words together.

Not other people, how people do it.

And then the machine tries to mimic that.

And so there’s lots of things that are wrapped up in artificial intelligence.

And the most, let’s see, what’s the word I’m looking for?

I guess the thing that people are interested in is what they call generative artificial intelligence.

And that means a machine that’s actually smart, that’s learning on its own, that might have some feeling of being human, although I don’t know why we use that word because I’m not sure humans are the most intelligent thing on the planet.

But the idea of generative AI is, I don’t know, I think it’s probably years away from being anything maybe recognizable.

And then Apple, like I said, doesn’t use artificial intelligence.

They like to use a term called machine learning.

So what’s the difference between those two?

Well, in my mind, artificial intelligence is leaning towards something that maybe is indistinguishable from a human.

And that’s a bad way to look at it because we want it to be different than us.

We want it to be smarter than us.

We want it to be able to teach us things.

But I think there’s some thought of independent intelligence in those two words.

And in machine learning, that means exactly what the world is happening in the technology world all the time.

Machines get better at doing things.

So you think about what Apple and Google like to call computational photography.

That just means you take a picture with your iPhone camera, and then there’s intelligence in the phone that says, we think this is what the picture should look like.

This is what the lighting should look like.

This is what the blur should look like.

All kinds of things to make it better than you were able to take picture.

And that’s machine learning.

That’s from a machine studying hundreds of thousands to millions of photographs to figure out what looks good.

So does the machine know what looks good, or do humans?

Well, I think humans know.

And to each of us, it’s going to be different.

So some may say, we don’t like what the phone does to our pictures.

And the problem is there’s not a real good way to turn it off.

But that is machine learning.

It’s like understanding what you want from the information that you’ve requested and giving it to you in a manner that is digestible for you.

And the machines learn over time to do that better, not artificial intelligence.

It’s just availability of information to a computing power that is so beyond what we can often imagine that it feels like artificial intelligence.

So what does the future look like in this arena?

That’s a hard question to answer because one, I guess I just don’t know, and I’m not sure what I want it to be even.

So I don’t know in my lifetime if machines are going to get to a point where they can act like humans, if that’s what we’re trying to get them to do.

But we already have places where machine learning helps humans to be better at things that they’re not very good at.

Let’s take driving for example.

In my little Honda, which is low-end whatever, there is machine learning in there that says, hey, I’m going to use a camera.

I’m going to use these sensors.

I’m going to look ahead.

I’m going to help this person be a better driver because they know, car makers, that humans are often distracted.

And so I think that’s the first future, which says machines help us to be better at what we want to do.

They help us to be better at finding information, at processing information.

They help us to be better at asking good questions, to learn more information.

And I think when we think of it as that kind of tool, kind of like a super assistant, then we will get some great benefit over the next two, five, 15 years from humans helping us to get better at the things we want to get better at because we know it can help mankind.

I don’t think I’m going to be around for a time when the future is the machine and humans are the sidekick.

And I hope at least I don’t get to see that because I am not interested in that at all.

Well, I’ve wandered all over the map today.

I’m not sure I said anything that’s all that useful even to myself, but I’m going to stop here and say that’s all I have for today.

If you have any comments or suggestions, you can write to technologybytes at merigfamily.com and I will be sure to respond.

I want to thank you for listening to the Technology Byte microcast, and I look forward to the next time we are together taking another bite of technology.

Joel Mearig @technologybytes