If you haven't heard about Artificial Intelligence ("AI"), where have you been? In my continuing quest to find things to do that push the online political ranting out of my mind, I've started work on the introductory MIT course on AI.
I don't know how deeply I'll go into this course. I just took a look at the recommended course textbook at Amazon. Very geeky and $140 to boot. I might buy a used textbook for about $40. The textbook seems to be mainly about writing AI programs in a programming language called Python.
One of my jobs as a multimedia developer and programmer, back before I retired, was putting up online courses for a variety of corporate clients. I put up some of the first online courses was back in the mid 90s. So, I'm interested in this course not just for the content, but also to see how online course development has evolved in 20 years.
My immediate impression is... not a lot. We used similar layouts and concepts 20 years ago.
AI, we've been told thousands of times, is going to put everybody out of work. So what is it? Here's a definition:
AI (pronounced AYE-EYE) or artificial intelligence is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems.
Machines that can think like humans, but better and faster. That's what it's about.
Robots imbued with AI will replace all manual laborers. Or, so we've been told repeatedly in the press and online. We may even be engineering our own obsolescence or extinction by making ourselves useless. Will the super smart robotic computers of the future deign to put up with stupid humans?
I've watched the first course video. A few observations.
- The instructor, Patrick H. Winston, talks about the fact that this course is being presented at MIT constantly. Why? He's appealing to the students' vanity, for sure, over the fact that they were admitted to one of the most prestigious tech schools. Branding?
- Winston would do well to get into some sort of exercise regimen. He seems out of breath at various points in the video as a result of walking around the room. Let's just say he doesn't have a charismatic screen presence. By the middle of the lecture, his shirt tail is falling out of the front of his trousers giving us an unflattering view of his belly.
- Winston throws in a couple of Diversity bits early in the lecture. He genuflects briefly before feminist and gay activist ideology. Why? I can't say. I don't know whether he actually finds these bits interesting and relevant, or whether he's simply trying to fulfill the now universal Diversity requirement in colleges in order to save his own ass.
- The video is static, with zero FX or attempts at production values.
The introductory video was interesting and accessible. I don't know whether that will continue to be the case as I move through the videos.
One goal, however, achieved. The video diverted my attention from the political ranting online for an hour.