In the world of Artificial Intelligence, we have this image of computers rising up, dethroning humanity as the alpha species on the planet.
They call it the Singularity. The moment computers wake up. Become conscious. Also known as Strong AI.
It could happen. But probably not for a while.
So where are we at today? We have gotten pretty good at identifying patterns in the data through a technique called Supervised Learning. In that we can read mounds of data, where the data points are sufficiently labeled, and we can associate mappings between source and outcome in a paired value scenario. And this is used to base predictions about future behavior.
We also have narrow or weak AI, which is basically Siri or Cortana. Personal assistants that can return information based on voice recognition commands, kind of like Star Trek.
The part that is most difficult is the Unsupervised Learning. Throwing data at an algorithm and having it deduce value and insights without human intervention or labels attached to the data.
There has been considerable progress in AI machines learning, by teaching themselves, in a simulated environment. However, the AI systems are basically experts at a single domain, not multiple domains. Likewise, the environmental variables within their world are limited to some degree.
So we have advanced the field of Artificial Intelligence a lot since the 1950s. And the AI Winter and lack of funding of the 1980s. And in the 2000s we've witnessed cheaper hardware, better processing power, advanced algorithms and better storage capacity. As well as having advanced AI software in the hands of mere mortals, as in not PhD academia.
Will computers rise to the point that they displace humans. Not yet. But I wouldn't count them out just yet.