SEARCH Journal

Artificial Intelligence in the real world: from science fiction to church pews

THE LINES between yesterday’s science fiction and today’s reality are increasingly blurred. In classic episodes of Star Trek, characters used futuristic devices, which allowed people to make calls across vast distances. Today, we have smartphones that not only make calls but also provide instant messaging, video conferencing, and access to the vast swathes of information on the internet.

In the world of Blade Runner, self-driving vehicles were depicted as a dystopian mode of transportation. Today, companies like Tesla are testing – and even deploying – autonomous vehicles on our roads. These cars use advanced sensors and algorithms to navigate traffic. A simulated virtual reality (VR) world played a central role in The Matrix. As a result of VR headsets, we can now overlay digital information onto our real-world surroundings and even play games or conduct business meetings in entirely virtual environments.

Perhaps the most significant leap from science fiction to reality, however, is the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is a catchall term for any effort to make technology do the sorts of things that humans can do. Constant development is a feature of recent times and attempting to make sweeping pronouncements about emerging technologies is arguably premature, even in terms of definition. While we have yet to reach the level of developing sentient robots, we have made significant strides in creating intelligent machines that can understand human language, play complex games like chess, diagnose medical conditions, and even assist with everyday tasks as virtual assistants.

* Full article available in printed copies.

Christopher West

Irish Anglican priest