Artificial Intelligence

In this chapter, we’ll dive into the popular field of Artificial Intelligence, or “AI”. From driverless cars, to robots who beat humans at Chess and Jeopardy, the field of artificial intelligence is one of the most exciting and promising areas of computer science. The art and science of crafting programs that mimic, and even surpass human intelligence, is tremendously important. However, there are also some ethical questions, and fears when it comes to AI. There have been many science fiction books and futuristic movies made about machines and robots that take over the world (i.e. The Terminator, The Matrix, etc.)

IBM’s Deep Blue computer was the first computer to beat a human at chess. In 1997, Deep Blue defeated the World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov. There was a documentary film called Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine that was made about this match.

Here are some good prompts to start a class discussion around Artificial Intelligence:

Question: What are some criteria you would use to classify a computer as “intelligent”?

  • There is no one definition, but researchers agree on some common traits:
    • Ability to make ‘smart’ decisions
    • Ability to learn and increase knowledge
    • Ability to imitate humans (language/speech, vision/image recognition)
  • The computer scientist, Alan Turing invented the “Turing Test” that was an effort to create a test that would determine if a machine was intelligent.

Question: What are some things that computers could do if we had better AI programs?

  • Some examples: diagnose diseases, drive our cars, fly airplanes, order groceries for us, do our laundry, be our personal translator when we travel, do our banking and money management, etc.

Question: If a computer is intelligent, does that mean it has its own consciousness, meaning, is it self-aware?

  • AI doesn’t necessarily mean that a computer can feel, or that it has its own personality. However, many researchers have been studying whether there are “robot rights” that we need to be aware of.

Artificial Intelligence Research

Many companies like Microsoft are investing in Artificial Intelligence Research. “Project Malmo“ is a research project that trains artificial intelligence agents using Minecraft. Project Malmo is a Minecraft mod that allows computer scientists to use the Minecraft worlds as a testing ground to improve their artificial intelligence. Minecraft is ideal for artificial intelligence research because it offers endless possibilities, ranging from simple tasks like walking around looking for treasure to complex ones like building a structure with a group of teammates.

Project Malmo: AI agents

For example, imagine you are building a robot, and trying to teach it to climb a hill. You could do that in Minecraft first, and avoid having to repair or replace the robot with another costly machine each time it fell into a river! The robot starts out knowing nothing at all about its environment or even what it is supposed to accomplish. It needs to understand its surroundings and figure out what’s important like avoiding certain obstacles. Also, determining what is not so important like whether it’s day or night would need to be addressed. It needs to endure a lot of trial and error, including regularly falling into rivers and lava pits. Also, it needs to understand when it has achieved all or part of its goal.