Beyond Zeros and Ones – my fascination with AI

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For many, artificial intelligence (AI) is science fiction that belongs in movies, books or something in the distant future. The first thoughts of intelligent machines were described by Greek philosophers thousands of years ago. What you may not realise is that most of us have already interacted with some form of AI since the early 1990s.

Indeed, you may not even realise that we are now using AI every day and everybody is contributing to its learning. For instance, every time you do a ‘Google’ search, enter a CAPTCHA symbol and ask Alexa, SIRI, Cortana or other digital assistants a question you are contributing to the learning of an AI.

When Alexa, the Amazon digital assistant, was first introduced it could only accomplish a handful of tasks. In three months it had grown to 3,000 tasks and in the past seven months to 10,000 tasks. The day is drawing near when each house will have something similar to JARVIS, the digital assistant featuring in the Iron Man movie.

Netflix, Spotify, Amazon, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Uber and many other digital brands we are familiar with are using some type of machine learning algorithm. They are learning from your searches, your interests, your preferences and more.

There are now services available using AI to manage your investment portfolio, fight your legal cases, analyse your health and fitness, promote your brand and provide protection to your home and your online presence.

There are nearly 7.5 billion people on this planet and we are getting closer to having every human being connected to the internet. That is 7.5 billion potential minds contributing to the growth of AI, accessing and sharing knowledge. Imagine putting these minds together to solve humanity’s problems.

For the past 33 years consumers have used keyboards and mice as devices to interact with computers. We are now using smartphones and tablets to access information ‘on the go’. However, these interactions with screens are still in what I describe as a ‘2D environment’.

Now think of a not so distant future when the machines we are using place all that knowledge in 3D holograms around us, and when the user interface (UI) is via gesture and voice control.

Imagine manipulating data and information in a virtual or augmented reality, when your digital assistant is used to connect the real world and the virtual world of knowledge. I see a future where your digital assistant will become your ‘personal’ assistant, knowing you better than anyone else. It will be present with you at all times, anywhere and everywhere.

Alexa: Tell me the history of Machu Picchu?
Alexa: Show me holograms of Machu Picchu?
Alexa: How do I get to Machu Picchu?
Alexa: Book me one business class air ticket from Bangkok to Lima June 12 and return July 12?

Why should this matter to you? AI is here to stay. With the vast and fast progress of machine learning, deep mind and quantum computing, the growth in this space will be exponential. I am convinced that our grandchildren will see keyboards, mouse and 2D flat screens in museums as something of a long-distance past.

How can you prepare yourself for an AI centric future? If you have digital destination information, a review site or a travel booking site (hotel, flight, car or tour), you should consider adding those services to Alexa through the Amazon Alexa Skills Kit.

When anyone talks about AI, there are loads of questions that go through people’s minds such as privacy and cybersecurity as well as ethical issues and the impact on jobs and livelihoods. I will attempt to address some of these issues in forthcoming blogs.


Until the next time,
Mario Hardy
Chief Executive Officer
Pacific Asia Travel Association