The Future of Artificial Intelligence

08 July 2021
Presenter writing on a white board

Dr. Bamshad Mobasher, director of the Center for Web Intelligence at DePaul University, recently shared a presentation about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its future in our world. DePaul offers a new Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence degree program that will help students contribute to this growing field.

AI is not new. According to Dr. Mobashar, AI dates back to the 1930s and has grown from the idea that a machine might be able to learn a task, into the #1 growing industry in the world!

What drives AI? Why do we keep pushing the envelope to develop this kind of technology? Dr. Mobasher cited Google AI: the purpose of AI is to “...augment the abilities of people to help us accomplish more and spend more time on creative endeavors.” This is an exciting prospect as we consider what might happen if we all spent more time on creativity and the possibilities that could come from that.

AI has been incorporated into many different facets of our lives - some are clearly visible and others less so. Dr. Mobasher said that the largest department in Netflix is not the department that makes movies and television is AI. The Netflix recommender system is incredibly complex, and Netflix relies on it to help subscribers see new content. Other examples of companies with these recommender systems are Spotify, Amazon, and Apple Music. If you see the phrase “People who bought this also liked...” you know there is a recommender system at work.

Scientists’ study of polar bears is an example of where AI is used and not necessarily seen on a regular basis. Scientists use AI combined with radar to help identify polar bears’ movements and protect them. With radar combined with AI, scientists can see through fog and snow, and this system is highly accurate, within the high 90th percentiles. AI can be a valuable tool in protecting an endangered species.

Even more fascinating is the future of AI. Dr. Mobasher talked about two areas in which AI is poised to take an instrumental role: healthcare and transportation. AI is a natural fit for healthcare as it uses understanding (pattern recognition) to inform logical reasoning and make predictions such as diagnosing illnesses or conditions. AI is also focusing on developing intelligent agents.

Intelligent agents are designed to have basic conversations with humans that can be used to gather medical information from patients. Healthcare professionals use AI in other areas, such as by incorporating AI into microscopes and other hardware to improve detection of bacteria and diseases and using AI to assist with gene sequencing. Using AI in gene sequencing has been particularly important in sequencing the COVID-19 virus and developing a vaccine to combat it.

Another application for AI is transportation. More than 40 companies are developing self-driving cars including Waymo, formerly Google’s self-driving car project. Building what it calls “the world’s most experienced driver,” Waymo applies self-driving technology to individual cars as well as to rideshare, trucking and local delivery systems. Many of the pieces for autonomous vehicles are already in place, with the final hurdle being safety.

Dr. Mobashar discussed the ethical considerations of technology development. At DePaul, Master’s students in the AI program take a course called Ethics in Artificial Intelligence. When technology advances beyond society’s expectations, it raises concerns about the impact of these advanced technologies on people, communities and the planet. It is critical for those working in this field to consider the broader implications of their work. One such consideration is how might autonomous vehicles reshape the way we live? Here in the US, we have a "car culture,” but how might autonomous cars change the design of our cities and towns? How might they change the way we relate to each other? Though we won’t always know the answers to these questions before we create technology, these are important questions to consider as we innovate and develop our technologies.

The consideration of these larger issues is part of what makes DePaul’s MS in Artificial Intelligence degree special. DePaul’s approach is inclusive - students learn not just the tools to use and create AI, but they also gain a comprehensive understanding of the systems so that they can think more broadly about AI and continue to lead the field forward even when the tools change.

Be a part of the future by choosing the MS in Artificial Intelligence degree at DePaul. Apply today!