Technology is still not very smart

Despite the hype around artificial intelligence - including banks introducing AI "virtual assistants" - it is a long way from really reshaping our lives, argues Blayne Slabbert.
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Despite the hype around artificial intelligence - including banks introducing AI "virtual assistants" - it is a long way from really reshaping our lives, argues Blayne Slabbert.

OPINION: It's easy to believe we are living in a world dominated by tech, with humans only a short step from becoming obsolete.

But the truth is that the digital takeover of our lives is only in the early stages and most tech is still not very smart.

There is a lot of hype around smart devices, self-driving cars and artificial intelligence but the dominance of this tech is still a long way away.

When you first use a smart device like the Amazon Echo, it's quite impressive. When asked, it can tell you the weather forecast or play a song. But push it any further and it quickly gets stuck.

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It's similar to a smart home - it's easy to turn the lights on and off, but to co-ordinate several tasks together takes a lot of effort and devices.

Amazon's Echo device and its voice assistant Alexa hasn't yet really proved its worth to most home-owners.
ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF
Amazon's Echo device and its voice assistant Alexa hasn't yet really proved its worth to most home-owners.

To get to the point where smart devices operate as they do in sci-fi movies, we'll have to give tech companies a lot of personal data and allow them access to everything in our homes. They'll also need to get a lot more affordable and easy to use.

Self-driving cars will be great when they arrive but don't hold your breath. Most car companies are expecting them to be available sometime in the 2020s but that doesn't mean you or I will own one then.

It'll be a very long time until they become common. The software to operate them is a long way from being perfected and getting them to operate in all locations and conditions is a complicated process. Also, the cost of them will be prohibitive for many years.

Artificial intelligence - tech that works and reacts like humans - is in its infancy. It has huge potential but at the moment it still struggles with the most basic tasks, such as spell-checking a document or identifying a photo.

You can also see its limitations when suggesting movies, videos or songs based on what you've previously chosen.

Technology columnist Blayne Slabbert.
STUFF
Technology columnist Blayne Slabbert.

So while tech can sometimes make us wow, it's still in its very early stages. Our lives are still largely analogue but  will become increasingly  digital.

Smart devices will truly be smart and artificial intelligence will infiltrate every part of our lives. Just don't expect it to happen any time soon.

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