Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

By: Matheus Bustamante


The idea of inanimate objects coming to life has been part of human life for decades. The ancient Greeks had myths about robots, and they were a civilization from the archaic period of the 8th to c. 5th centuries BC all the way to the end of antiquity (600 AD). More recently, we can see those predictions in movies. Wall-E shows the story of a robot that was programmed by humans to take the garbage of the world and form them into pieces, but the main point of the movie is to show how Wall-E feels emotionally attached to another robot named Lisa showing how robots could feel emotions like humans.


The future is here and there are two topics that are directly related to Artificial intelligence: Machine Learning and Deep Learning. They both might be in your daily life, but you probably never stop to think about them.


Imagine you decided to watch Netflix today. You open the app, and the first thing that pops up is suggestions about movies or TV shows. It might be easy to think that a program can suggest you a movie based on previous movies watched, but actually behind that simple suggestion Netflix uses a high level of engineering. Everything is related to algorithms. Those are a set of rules for solving a problem in a finite number of steps as for finding the greatest common divisor or (more simply) it is a formula used by computers to solve problems. The “Suggested for You” algorithm used by Netflix uses a lot of mathematics to collect a bunch of data as you use the app.


“We know what you played, searched for, or rated, as well as the time, date, and device. We even track user interactions such as browsing or scrolling behavior. All that data is fed into several algorithms, each optimized for a different purpose.” – The Science Behind the Netflix Algorithms That Decide What You’ll Watch Next by WIRED


But artificial intelligence is not only used by Netflix. Companies like, Facebook, Snapchat, and Amazon are using the same technology in order to have a better contact with the user. Have you ever thought how Facebook can recognize your friends in a picture before you tag them? On their website, Facebook explains that they are able to compare your friend’s photos with the information they store from your profile pictures and the other photos you were tagged in.


“We currently use facial recognition software that uses an algorithm to calculate a unique number (“template”) based on someone’s facial features, like the distance between the eyes, nose, and ears. This template is based on your profile pictures and photos you’ve been tagged in on Facebook.” – Facebook Help Center


If you want to know more about face recognition and test this new algorithm, visit this website by Microsoft:


Human Vs. Machine


Another interesting topic is Human Vs. Machine. On March 19, 2016, the best Go player in the world, Lee Sedol, sat down for a game against Google DeepMind’s artificial-intelligence program, AlphaGo.


Go is an abstract strategy board game for two players, in which the aim is to surround more territory than the opponent. Think about chess, but with much more movement possibilities. On the first move of each game, for example, a chess player has 20 possible moves, a Go player has 361. The game is much more complex and involves much more rational thinking.


By the beginning of the game, most people at that night were betting on Lee to win against Google’s program. As the game progressed, the audience was shocked at how the program was able to outthink and outmaneuver Lee. “I don’t really know if it’s a good move or a bad move,” he said. “I thought it was a mistake,” says English-language commentator, Chris Garlock. Players around the world were shocked to see how AlphaGo was making moves that they didn’t even think existed. The machine did every human move better than a human. That was the first time a human lost for a machine and shows how powerful AI is.


Are we living in a simulation?


Elon Musk, co-founder PayPal and Tesla Motors, creator of the space corporation SpaceX and now of the most powerful executives in the world, says that it is almost certain that we are living in a simulation.


“There is a one in a billion chance that this is base reality,” said Elon


Most people though may think that this is an absurd idea and that there is no way we are living in a simulation. If we stop to think, those kinds of ideas were always part of our life. 2,000 years before Galileo, Aristarchus of Samos first thought the earth was at the center of the universe and the sun the last planet of the solar system. Today we know that is not true but back on that period, Aristarchus of Samos‘s hypothesis was considered to be true. Those ideas push us to think more rigorously about what we accept as reality.  So first let’s understand it to then discard it away.


The whole idea is based on how video games are advancing at such fast rate.


“Forty years ago we had Pong – two rectangles and a dot. That’s where we were. Now 40 years later, we have photorealistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously and it’s getting better every year. And soon we’ll have virtual reality, we’ll have augmented reality,” said Musk. “If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality.”


If in 40 years we went from Pong to photorealistic 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously, what can we have in 10,000 years? That is the point Elon Musk wants to get. It is not that the graphics would be better, but that we would be able to simulate synapses of the human brain. So 10,000 humans could simulate the entire world.


According to Musk, we should hope we are living in a simulation because otherwise, our civilization would stop advancing due to some calamitous event that will erase civilization. In conclusion, if we are living in a simulation, that means previous civilizations didn’t get extinct before the creation of the simulation we are “living” now, and so, we can also create a simulation before something ceases our civilization.


So there are two options:


  1. Humans go extinct before we are able to create the simulation.
  2. We are living in a simulation.


Now, I will lead you to take your own conclusions about that topic. An interesting video on YouTube that can be helpful if you want to know more about simulation is by Vox. I recommend it.


Those are the three topics I wanted to point when talking about Artificial Intelligence. Of course, there is more such as self driving cars, but with those, we can start to think how our future is going to be with such technology. Hope you enjoy it.