Advanced machine learning, also known as artificial intelligence or just A.I., holds far greater promise than unsettling headlines about computers beating humans at games like Jeopardy!, chess, checkers, and Go. Ultimately, humans and machines will work together—not against one another. Computers may win at games, but imagine what’s possible when human and machine work together to solve society’s greatest challenges like beating disease, ignorance, and poverty.
Doing so, however, requires a bold and ambitious approach that goes beyond anything that can be achieved through incremental improvements to current technology. Now is the time for greater coordination and collaboration on A.I.
I caught a glimpse of what this might yield earlier this year while standing onstage with Saqib Shaikh, an engineer at Microsoft, who has developed technology to help compensate for the sight he lost at a very young age. Leveraging a range of leading-edge technologies, including visual recognition and advanced machine learning, Saqib and his colleagues created applications that run on a small computer that he wears like a pair of sunglasses. The technology disambiguates and interprets data in real time. In essence, technology paints a picture of the world for him audibly instead of visually. He experiences the world in richer ways, like connecting a noise on the street to a skateboarder or sudden silence in a meeting to what co-workers might be thinking. He can “read” a menu as his technology whispers in his ear. Perhaps most important to him, he finds his own loved ones in a bustling park where they’ve gathered for a picnic.