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A watershed moment for Artificial Intelligence?

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk and several other big names in the tech world very recently announced a $1 billion donation to the artificial intelligence research group OpenAI. The open source research model could speed up the development of artificial intelligence and create value for humanity.

Not long ago, Elon Musk called work on human-level artificial intelligence (AI) “summoning the demon.” Now the Silicon Valley heavy weight, along with Y Combinator president Sam Altman, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and Musk’s PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, appears to be facing the demon head on with a $1 billion donation to the AI research group OpenAI.

In a press release on December 11, 2015, OpenAI says it “is a non-profit artificial intelligence research company” whose “goal is to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return.”

The 10-figure sum should certainly give OpenAI the breathing room needed to work independently without worrying about making money, which is precisely what Musk and his friends hope for.

Artificial intelligence is all around

Artificial intelligence is already all around us – benefiting our lives in countless ways. Our smartphones are a great example. The GPS technology uses AI to map the route we should take among millions of options. Smartphones also recognize our speech and detect faces in the pictures we snap. Siri and Google Now are even beginning to predict what we plan to do next. Google employs a host of AI technologies to instantaneously provide thousands of search results, recommend books or movies or tell us how to avoid traffic jams.

The next generation will likely be self-driving vehicles – a technology many carmakers and tech companies like Google, Tesla and BMW are working on. Manned test vehicles have already completed thousands of miles on the open road.

The possibilities are endless – a notion that triggers both excitement and anxiety among us humans. However, Many of these applications are not really AI but rather a function of increased processing power that can handle wast amounts of data and identify patterns and draw conclusions.

Artificial intelligence is real

What really makes us anxious is so-called ‘deep machine learning’ – real artificial intelligence that can learn and improve on its own. Some see it as the first step to the scary ‘Sky Net’ scenario that so far only Hollywood has been able to produce. And although the threats are real, so are the opportunities.

The learning aspect is a key prerequisite for the advancement of AI. And ‘deep learning’ is all the buzz in the tech world. Naturally Google is out in front, dedicating loads of research assets to the topic. The company even recently spent $400 million for DeepMind, a start-up run by deep-learning geeks who up to that point had only showed that their AI could master the Atari Space Invaders, for those of my generation. Could the future of artificial intelligence begin with a game of Space Invaders? DeepMind co-founder and CEO, Demis Hassabis, seems to think so. “This is just games, but it could be stock market data,” he told WIRED magazine.

It may seem like sciences fiction, or if nothing else truly visionary, but it is real. Expert neuro-scientists are joining machine-learning gurus on a journey to discover just how far this technology can take us.

Artificial intelligence in logistics

There is huge potential for learning machines in the logistics industry

Personally, I find new technologies fascinating and exciting – I absolutely love following the trends and investigating their application in logistics – and not only because it’s my job. And there is huge potential for learning machines in our industry. In recent years we’ve taken quite a few exploratory journeys of our own, from looking at big data and self-driving vehicles to testing the use of augmented reality in our warehouses.

Right now we are exploring the use of robotics and AI in logistics at our Asia-Pacific Innovation Center in Singapore, where visitors can meet Mr. Baxter – a parcel picking robot. Baxter has been programmed to collect parcels from a warehouse shelf and place them on a small autonomous vehicle that delivers them to another part of the warehouse with the help of sensors. Unlike common assembly line robots, Baxter is sensitive to his surroundings and can collaborate with humans, stopping if he detects a human in his way, for example.

Baxter complements other innovations we are working on, such as the use of smart glasses to assist warehouse order picking and drones like the DHL Parcelcopter to move parcels within warehouses or handle last-mile delivery in remote or even congested areas.

We certainly see this as a potential watershed moment for AI – one that could aid our efforts to develop the technology to improve logistics and help connect more people around the world.

The AI trend is something we are following closely. Watch for our latest trend report on robotics, which will be coming out soon.

Trend report: Self-Driving Vehicles in Logistics

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