“My education background is Computer Science; at SIM, I study the intersection of people, information, and technology. This includes research challenges in using cloud computing, tool support for research dissemination and discovery, management of cloud-scale data, leveraging IT to meet research and educational needs, and enabling open data and data literacy.”
Dr. Mike Smit Associate Professor & Acting Associate Dean (Research)
School of Information Management, Dalhousie University
Dr. Mike Smit’s public lecture on October 11, 2017 at the Marriott Hotel, 100 Kent Street, Ottawa, addressed the implications of our evolving technology, once considered science fiction, upon our society, business and government. In a recent virtual interview with CFAME Connection, Dr. Smit provided a brief synopsis of his lecture:
We need to view artificial intelligence (AI) not as the villain in a sci-fi movie, which is where we tend to see AI most often, but as the next stage in the evolution of computer technology. While the bold promises of AI haven’t yet come to fruition, things that we now accept as common-place are key AI accomplishments: Netflix can recommend TV shows, Amazon can recommend books, Siri can talk to me and I can talk to ‘her’, and so on. So, if you think about AI as the next set of exciting new features, what will it be doing for us in the near future?
We are experiencing widespread adoption of machine learning; that is, how computers “learn” to perform tasks, like recognizing images or translating text. There are interesting applications that come out of this evolution that will influence our current reality. These applications will start with the usual targets for AI and automation: tasks that are dull, dirty, or dangerous; tasks that follow a certain pattern; tasks that require more precision than creativity.
AI is not yet ready to replace human choice for making life-impacting decisions about individuals, so we have to be careful about how we use it, and when we trust it. Algorithms can take existing bias in data and in society and magnify it, so understanding its capabilities and limitations is important for any organization interested in moving in this direction.
Michelle Hunter, an attendee at Dr. Smit’s lecture, was challenged and excited by the possibilities of AI.
We see the influences of AI everywhere we turn; the self driving car, the self check outs; phone apps, the downfall of Sears (attributed to on-line shopping). We are living in a society dependent upon technology: to access information, to connect with others, to purchase what we want and need in hopes of simplifying our busy lives.
Dr. Mike Smit’s insightful lecture emphasized that the enhancements, capabilities and availability of data storage sparked the unprecedented rapid advancements in AI. Dr. Smit’s engaging discussion enabled the audience to visualize the current and changing landscape of AI as well as the potential benefits and risks associated with AI advancements.
Dr. Smit argued that rapid development without consideration for regulations or policy around the use of specific AI advancements could potentially have adverse consequences. For example, the self driving car. If there was an accident involving a self-driving car; who would be at fault – the owner of the car or the manufacturer of the AI component? Dr. Smit noted that policy-makers will need to react quickly to rapidly developing AI technologies such as regulations surrounding the safe use of recreational drones. According to Dr. Smit’s research, there is only an 80% accuracy rate of some AI. His challenge: where and when is 80% accuracy acceptable.
Artificial intelligence will have a significant impact on our lives and decisions. We will need to acquire new skill sets and be ready to transition into innovative work that comes with the evolution of artificial intelligence. With new technologies also comes new opportunities. Our society must be prepared to change with these advancements.