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The Current Evolution of A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) in the World

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By Hector Cisneros

AI - Artificial Intelligence, the world is a buzz with the term. Tons of commercials tout that it's will be the savior of mankind. Many of the latest movies are featuring it, and of course the main players are all saying that their AI is the best for your needs. But what is true and what is hype? How much can your Google Assistant, Amazon's Echo, Apple's SIRI, Microsoft's Cortana and IBM Watson really do? In some cases a lot less that they say and in some cases more than you know.  It's like any tool, it can be useful when operated properly, it can be a spy, a weapon or even an expensive toy, but regardless of any potential dangers, the world is clamoring for this Star Trek Tech in huge numbers. In this episode of Working the Web to Win, we will explore the state of the top AI contenders. What they can and can't do, as well as providing resources so you can decide whether you're ready for an artificially intelligent world. So get ready to prompt your favorite AI devices for more information as we delve into the Current Evolution of our AI world.

Some in our society take AI for granted, without even thinking about it. Many in our world use AI everyday and don't know that they are using it. For example if you ask your smartphone the question "Hey Siri, where is the closest restaurant", or ask your Android phone - "OK Google, read me my text messages", you just used AI.  In my home, I often hear my wife asking Amazon Echo questions like; "Alexa, what will the weather be today". If you use Microsoft products,  Microsoft's AI algorithms are running spell and grammar checking in the background. You can also ask Cortana to take dictation. If you're using a browser to surf the web, AI algorithms are conducting auto-fill, auto-correct, auto-highlight and the search results are produced by Google's search AI called Rank Brain. This is just a small example of everyday functions that are provided by AI algorithms.

Artificial Intelligence is one of our favorite subjects. It is rich in content, direction, excitement and controversy. For example, I wrote an article not long ago called "Are Internet Algorithms giving Mary Shelley a run for her Frankenstein Monster?", which was about how many of the internet algorithms were running out of control. Along these same lines, my business partner Carl Weiss wrote an article called "Do Smartphones Dream About Facebook?" which explored many of the esoteric developments of the top AI developers.
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For many, the impetus for the development of Artificial Intelligence was the TV show series Star Trek. The Starship Enterprise was run by an AI computer that the crew members often queried and gave commands to. We wrote an article that showed how many of the futuristic technologies portrayed in the show have actually come into existence. Our article called "Star Trek Tech and Beyond in the 21st Century" discussed  how AI, Communicators, (aka smartphones), Genetics, Phasers (lasers) and Transparent Aluminum and several other technologies have already been invented. This article has a continuous stream of readers even today because of the popularity and the imagination the show stirred in the hearts of its audience.

Other articles we have written delved into SEO algorithms, (Understanding the SEO Paradigm Shift in Business), how AI is used by law enforcement, (Echo For The Prosecution),  how AI is changing the Internet (What’s Up with Web 3.0?), and even how AI is used to make marketing decisions. Read my article called "Hector The Connector's Internet Marketing Predictions are 99% Accurate".  Here is a short list of other articles for those interested in learning about AI from various perspectives.
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Who are the Main Tech Players in Artificial Intelligence?  Listed alphabetically they are, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM and Microsoft. I own four of these A.I. devices myself, including an Apple IPhone, several Microsoft computers, several Amazon Echos and Android phone, several tablets and a couple of Google desktop Assistants. So as a user of A.I. technology, I am always experimenting to see what they can an can't do.

Let start by looking at the Amazon Echo (aka Alexa). The Echo or Alexa, as its prompt phrase goes, was one of the first  standalone A.I.assistants to hit the market (not counting Apples Iphone with Siri). Since its launch in November 6, 2014, its vocabulary has grown from several dozen commands to hundreds of commands and skills. It has also added the ability to control several dozens of IoT (Internet of Things) devices like garage door openers, lights, the ability to turn on/off various appliances and to control TV's and other smart devices as well. 
Echo Show Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The original Echo has also spawned other similar devices, including this list from wikipedia; 3.2Echo Dot,  3.3Amazon Tap3.4Echo Look3.5Echo Show3.6Echo Spot3.7Echo Plus3.8Echo Auto3.9Echo Input3.10Echo Link and Link Amp, and 3.11Accessories.  One of the items that amazon keeps upgrading is the ability to use your Echo to order products and track your purchases with your Alexa. It's definitely part of their strategy to make buying as easy as possible. Here is a link to the current list of Amazon's Echo commands (Alexa) - Alexa Commands - The living list.

The Echo isn't the only game in town, it has stiff competition from Google and Apple as well. Both Google Assistant devices and Apple's Siri-controlled devices are extensive. Both can command a comprehensive list of devices to communicate and control  your IoT world.
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The Google's Home Assistant  - When I am writing articles in my home office, I use the Google Home Assistant extensively. I have found that the device works better than trying to use the A.I. in my Chrome browser interface. This is especially true on a computer, (verse a  smartphone.) In some instances, I find that Google speech recognition is better than the Echo or SIRI, but not always. Also, all of these consumer products are working hard to leapfrog each others capabilities. This is possible because most of the consumer devices A.I. capabilities are housed in the cloud, and not on the device itself. Also, just like Amazon, Google is working hard to make frequent online buying a part of your Google Home Assistant experience. Google wants you to say "Hey Google, order me a pizza", instead of you having to pick up the phone and call Domino's.  Here is a current list of Google Home commands – a comprehensive guide to them all!
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Apple SIRI - In a big way, Apple started the A.I. revolution when SIRI was integrated into iPhone 4S at its release in October 2011. Since then, Apple has been integrating SIRI into all of its products because it is now part of Apple's OS (Operating System). When Siri was launched, it was like the birth of Star Trek for the average person. I have found SIRI voice recognition to be good, but not quite as good as Amazon or Google recognition. I have also found that voice recognition is affected by background noise and also a person's natural voice inflections and tone. I have never heard an Apple fanatic complain about SIRI's natural language capabilities but being the geek I am, I love testing these devices against each other. The truth is this; What ever family of A.I. device you choose, be ready to stick with that family because these devices don't currently play well together. I also know that Apple is working hard to keep up with Amazon on the buying frontier. You can order a Pizza with your SIRI enabled device, an a whole lot of other things as well. Here is a current list of SIRI commands you can learn about by clicking on this article - "How to Use Siri, Siri Commands List for iPhone X & iPad".

Microsoft Cortana - Microsoft launched Cortana on April 2, 2014 when it launched Windows 10. It does have a variant that runs as an app on Android and Windows phones and a few specific Microsoft devices. It also comes standard on all Microsoft computers,  laptops and surface Tablets. Wikipedia device list includes; Windows 10 Mobile, Windows Phone 8.1,[8]Invoke smart speaker, Microsoft Band, Surface Headphones, Xbox One,[9][10]iOS, and Android,[11
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I have found that I need to train Cortana to understand my voice, much more so than either than either the Amazon Echo, Google Assistant or SIRI products. Having said that, I know it is getting better with every upgrade Microsoft provides! On the app front, Microsoft is not willing to take a backseat to Amazon, Google or Apple either. They too have added new skill sets including the ability to buy Pizza (and other items) online.  And speaking of upgrades, all of these A.I. products are upgraded way more often than in the past. In fact, it's one of the drawbacks I hold against Microsoft, as the frequency and length of the upgrades is sometimes a real pain. Here is a link to an article that provides lots of information on using Cortana. Every New Cortana Command and Setting You Should Try

IBM Watson -  I was really impressed ever since I saw an IBM computer running Watson beat the Jeopardy champions in 2011, winning the 1 million dollar prize for that show. It didn't just beat the standing Jeopardy champions, it tripled their score. Since then, Watson has been used to manage medical diagnosis, as a predictive model for ordering and as a security tool to help stop internet security threats. 

Watch the video as Watson Defeats the Jeopardy Champions

However, Everything isn't Rosie in the A.I. World! - Speaking of Watson and other big name A.I. players, some in the industry have begun to question their performance as the new savior of mankind. A recent article that questions A.I. capabilities in general called, "2018 in Review: 10 AI Failures", discussed several high profile failures of some of the most highly touted A.I. ventures. The subjects in this article included; "Uber self-driving car kills a pedestrian", (where a pedestrian was actually killed). "IBM Watson comes up short in healthcare", where doctors say, “This product is a piece of shit”. Along with the headline, "Amazon AI recruiting tool is gender biased" and "Boston Dynamics robot blooperwhich states that after showing off the mobility prowess of  its Atlas robot, "the poor robot tripped over a curtain and awkwardly tumbled off the stage". Other interesting articles worth reading are; "Stories of AI Failure and How to Avoid Similar AI Fails in 2019" and "AI fails: why AI still isn’t ready to take your job"

Facebook's AI The last A.I product I want to mention is Facebook's Artificial Intelligence. It has been primarily a research and development tool but I have noticed that Facebook has stepped up the automation of its timeline algorithm which filters what is displayed (or not) in your timeline. Facebook has also been adding response-bots to its business pages and is diligently working to use A.I. to clean up and stop abuses on its platform. 
Courtesy of Pixabay

In a Wired article entitled, "AI HAS STARTED CLEANING UP FACEBOOK, BUT CAN IT FINISH?"  It professes that Facebook is implementing A.I. algorithms to suppress hate speech, pornography, fake news, troll political speech and ads. However this is a daunting task and using A.I. algorithms can be a two-edged sword. This article is interesting to say the least, but I doubt that Facebook's efforts will do more than put a dent in the problems they have been accused of in the last 2 years. In a separate unrelated article about another Facebook A.I capability used for photo recognition called Rosetta, it talks about how - "FACEBOOK'S AI CAN ANALYZE MEMES, BUT CAN IT UNDERSTAND THEM?". Needles to say Facebook's A.I. capabilities are growing but they still have a long way to go.

Since I have started using A.I. devices back in 2013, I've noticed that they have improved their natural language recognition, (receptive language).  Some of this increased capabilities has come through the addition of new skills which require adding the skill and then activating the skill set. However, their expressive language, (natural language replies) has gotten noticeably better. They all have expanded their skill sets to include many useful functions and capabilities. When these devices are coupled with IoT devices, we see its capabilities have grown by leaps and bounds. There have been breakthroughs in motion detection, object recognition, game play, natural language interaction, self learning, machine controls, and automation of application functions (both local and internet based). 
Courtesy of Flickr

The coolest part of consumer A.I. devices is that you don't have to upgrade them much. Most of the upgrading is done at the cloud level. My original Amazon Echo works , better today than it did when I purchased it in 2014. However, every tool can have a dark-side. Every tool can be a weapon. The dark-side of A.I. begins with its ability to be always listening. This function can be easily abused! Also A.I. can run amok! We as a society are experimenting with the development of Artificial Intelligence.  AI algorithms have already shown themselves capable of doing crazy things and any digital device is hackable. Put crazy and hackable together and you've got potential problems. My advice to anyone using one of these A.I. devices is to stay vigilant and make sure your antimalware products are up to date. Hold the makers of these A.I. products feet to the fire by demanding that they provide 3rd party testing for security and consumer usability. I love cool products and A.I. is at the top of my list. However, not demanding that these cool yet powerful tools be kept safe for public use is a recipe for Artificial Disaster. 

That's my opinion; I look forward to reading yours.

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This article explores the many recent upgrades that have occurred in artificial Intelligence and the  A.I. personal assistant arena. It cover Amazon Echo, Google's Home Assistant, Apple's SIRI, Microsoft's Cortana, IBM's Watson and Facebook's forays into A.I. development.Lastly, this article also provides links to many other articles including a link to the BlogTalkRadio show that goes with this article.

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Hector Cisneros is COO and Director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success” and the co-author along with his business partner Carl Weiss of their hit book also called “Working the Web to Win.”

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