Cyber Seventy-Seven and Cyber Dead or Alive both feature an unusual character named Kat. Kat is the Artificial Intelligence system that powers the catamarans in the novels. She, yes, the computer believes she is female, also helps the lead characters with cyber hacking and cyber hunting activities.
How realistic is a computer like Kat? Very, is the simple answer. In the age of the Internet, we’re literally bombarded with examples of Application Specific Artificial Intelligence on a daily basis.
Every time we search for something on Amazon or Google, machine learning algorithms are used to offer the best choices of products or websites to match our interests. In nearly every case, advertisements are also offered based on a computer having learned about our shopping preferences or web surfing habits. These are examples of very specific, narrow uses of machine learning running on massive databases, designed to serve tens of millions of people, twenty-four hours a day. An impressive, sometimes scary application of technology that, most of the time, makes our lives easier.
But you might add, that’s a far cry from the speaking, decision making, seemingly autonomous computer named, Kat. You’d be correct. Kat, as described in Cyber Seventy-Seven and Cyber Dead or Alive, is a General-Purpose Artificial Intelligence. Rather than being narrowly focused on a single problem, the learning algorithms have been given greater freedom to cover a wider range of topics.
Today, there are thousands of General-Purpose AIs in development. Building a real-life Kat would be an economic Holy Grail. Neither computer processing power nor software have proven to be the limiting factors for developing these systems. Rather it has been our human understanding of how we, as humans, and subsequently computers, actually learn and apply knowledge.
The history of Artificial Intelligence is replete with examples of the unintended consequences of machine learning and attempts to teach computers to think like humans. But, at the end of the day, what we’ve discovered is even the most intelligent human exposed to a bad environment and bad information, can, and most likely will, make surprisingly bad decisions. The same is true of computers, with one exception. The computer will make those bad decisions millions of times faster than a human ever could, without tiring, and without emotional involvement in the consequences.
As a result, responsible Artificial Intelligence developers have begun focusing on a code of conduct and ethics for AI. Which brings us back to Kat. Could or should she exist? With regard to could she exist. Yes. With regard to should she exist. That’s a more difficult question and one that will be explored in future novels. However, because Kat, in the novels is unique to Blaze and Carla Heaton, it allows them to ethically guide her learning and use. Does that mean Kat can never go astray? Hmmm…we’ll see. :)
For an excellent source on Artificial Intelligence see: Charles Jennings, Artificial Intelligence: Rise of the Lightspeed Learners.