Artificial intelligence in the real world

A brief discussion on artificial intelligence (AI) with some examples of activities that use some aspects of AI that we might not have realised.

This week, most major publications reported the death of artificial intelligence (AI) pioneer, Marvin Minsky, who died on 24 January at the age of 88. In a nutshell – and without overwhelming us all – Minsky was instrumental in laying the foundation for analysing artificial neural networks and for a lot of the work that is still being done today in AI.

For most of us, we see AI as futuristic – the fodder of the movies, where a frequent theme is the machines becoming smarter than humans and either seeking to enslave us, or threatening our continued existence. Further, we in the Caribbean, may believe that our citizens and societies are still quite removed from AI – with our ‘Third World’ and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) challenges. However, AI has permeated our societies, and is shaping not only the way we live, but how we do business. Below are just a few examples of areas that have benefited from AI technology, some of which touch our lives directly.

  • Video games.  Most video games have integrated some AI into their design in order to provide users with not only a highly developed and customisable experience, but also an adaptive and dynamic environment where the game itself responds, and to some degree, evolves to the gamers specifications and choices.
  • Flying drones.  Although much has been made over the last several months of’s use of drones, flying drones are commercially available and are already being used in the Caribbean. In the region they tend to be used for aerial photography and geographic information system (GIS)-related activities.
  • Data analytics. Do you have a need to process massive amounts of data? Or are you interested in isolating and analysing possible trends in a data-rich environment? AI can assist those and other needs by, mining the data, detecting pattern, incorporating other contextual data sources, forecasting, and conducting trend analysis, to name a few, in order to produce the desired results.
  • Shape and character recognition. For those of us who love good crime dramas on television, quite regularly, there are some fuzzy images of an individual or object, which through the ‘magic of computers’, the images are improved and their content becomes clearer. Though those kinds of AI software applications are used by law enforcement, especially in developed countries, some of that technology is available for private use, such as in photo/image editing (and manipulation) software applications, face detection features on our smartphones, and optical character recognition, to read and convert scanned text-based pages into editable documents.
  • Online user analysis. As much as we might find it a bit unsettling, we may also appreciate receiving information on various online platforms that appears to have taken into account some of our interests, likes and inclinations. Search engines, social networks,and even those monthly subscription services, such as Birchbox and JustFab, to name a few are all guilty of using user behaviour analysis and prediction technology to try to provide their users with a customised and relevant experience.

In summary and to be clear: machines cannot yet fully replicate human intelligence, but have been able to demonstrate some aspects of intelligence, such as logic, reasoning, problem solving, deduction and learning. It must thus be emphasised that the strides that have made in AI must be directly attributed to the knowledge, skills and efforts of the scientists, hardware specialists and software developers, to name a few, who are experts in the requisite fields and continue to drive work in that area.


Image credit:  Geerati (


1 Comment

  • The Google Driverless Car? Could it fall in this category of AI? BBC World described it as “brilliant but so boring”.

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