What Has Artificial Intelligence Done for Us Lately?

What Has Artificial Intelligence Done for Us Lately?

What Has Artificial Intelligence Done for Us Lately?

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Aug. 22 2011 12:34 PM

What Has Artificial Intelligence Done for Us Lately?

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Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

If your hopes or fears for artificial intelligence run more toward the sci-fi, then this isn’t a story for you (instead, you’ll want to click over this cool timeline of when sci-fi films take place). But if you’re interested in practical applications for AI, keep reading. According to the New Scientist, AI is increasingly useful in one somewhat surprising discipline: ecology. One ecologist tells New Scientist, “[Y]ou can take these really complex databases that contain tonnes of species interacting in ways we can't even imagine, and let the data speak for themselves.”

AI for ecology can help predict what invasive species can disrupt an ecosystem or what diseases are emerging in animals—and whether they could threaten humans. One benefit of using AI is that it doesn’t make human assumptions, like that data fall neatly along a bell curve; it can also better manage missing data. One caveat: These sorts of processes require massive amounts of input information.

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Read more on the New Scientist (registration required).

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, New America, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies.