A few weeks have passed since the Suez Canal was cleared of the now infamous Ever Given, the quarter-mile-long, 220,000-ton cargo ship that ran aground, clogging one of the world’s most crucial shipping arteries for over six days. For almost a week, the world was captivated by an 869-foot-wide portion of the historic canal built in 1869 to connect the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez. Ordinary people from all walks of life instantly became armchair marine engineers, nautical scientists and tugboat captains, offering advice on how to free the ship in a matter of minutes, while hundreds of massive cargo vessels sat stranded at either end of the canal. Finally, on March 29, 2021, after around-the-clock efforts by international teams, salvage crews extricated the ship, allowing the rest of us to turn (reluctantly) back to our day jobs.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hot topic in industries from manufacturing to the medical profession. Developments in the last ten years have delivered AI technology, once a fiction reserved for the movies, to private corporations and even to everyday homes. Examples include:
- 2004 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) sponsors a driverless car grand challenge. Technology developed by the participants eventually allows Google to develop a driverless automobile and modify existing transportation laws.
- 2005 Honda’s ASIMO humanoid robot can walk as fast as a human, delivering trays to customers in a restaurant setting. The same technology is now used in military robots.
- 2011 IBM’s Watson wins Jeopardy against top human champions. It is training to provide medical advice to doctors. It can master any domain of knowledge.
- 2012 Google releases its Knowledge Graph, a semantic search knowledge base, likely to be the first step toward true artificial intelligence.
- 2013 BRAIN initiative aimed at reverse engineering the human brain receives $3 billion in funding by the White House, following an earlier billion euro European initiative to accomplish the same.
- 2014 Chatbot convinced 33% of the judges it was human and by doing so passed a restricted version of a Turing Test.
The era of the self-driving car has arrived, with the shiny promise of fewer auto collisions—and the inevitable potholes of a transformative technology. Despite the significant concerns raised by a recent accident involving a driver’s reliance on a partially autonomous automatic braking and steering system on the Tesla Model S—one of 70,000 such vehicles now on the roads—the auto industry is roaring ahead with autonomous vehicles (AVs). Google is testing its driverless cars extensively on U.S. roads; General Motors has teamed up with car-sharing company Lyft to develop a driverless taxi service; and most major automakers will be releasing fully or partially autonomous vehicles in the next five years.