7 Ways You Depend On Artificial Intelligence Every Day Without Realizing It

Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images News/Getty Images

You might still think about artificial intelligence as if it were a futuristic talking robot, but in reality, it shows up in our day to day lives in many ways that we simply take for granted. We're still quite a long way from autonomous robots, but AI is something you depend on literally every day without realizing it, from how you shop, to how you travel, do research, and more, with or without an automatic assistant's help.

AI these days is largely powered by machine learning, in which algorithms look at data and trends and use them to make predictions and judgements. When people talk about 'deep learning', they're discussing a way in which AI designers make machine learning work: by layering many different approaches to the data into one network, and then putting them together to spit out an answer. How you feel about AI's dominance depends on your opinions about its attendant concerns — like privacy, for instance. But AI definitely isn't going away: instead, it's being posited as the 'future' of a whole host of different industries, from healthcare to clothes shopping to bus travel. Like it or not, AI is influencing our lives in a host of ways that you probably don't think about on the reg — but that are important to remember, as it becomes more integrated in our lives.


AI Shapes Our Choices & Purchases

This is probably the most noticeable way in which AI affects everyday life right now: the algorithms operated by companies from Amazon to Netflix to Facebook that gather data on your browsing habits to more effectively market to you. These algorithms do count as artificial intelligence, because they take all your different choices and make predictions based on what they 'know' about you. Whether you appreciate this or not depends on how much you like the ease of being offered things designed to appeal to you — or how frustrated you are when it doesn't work. No, Facebook, I am not interested in buying horse-riding lessons; I am in fact scared of horses. (True story.)


It Can Make Judgements About Your Health

Increasingly, AI is becoming a part of the way we treat our health issues. In early 2018, Google revealed it had developed an eye scanning technology that could use AI to detect signs of heart problems. But that's the latest incarnation of a pretty old relationship. TIME reported in 2017 that machine learning has influenced everything from research on genetics to apps that detect depressive symptoms in people with mental health issues. And now it's being used to do things like order blood type deliveries to remote areas.


It Can Provide On-The-Spot Help — And Company

The interaction of social media and robots capable of 'chatting' — reacting and learning from what people tell them — has a pretty odd history. Most notably, the chatbot produced by Microsoft in 2016 had to be shut down because it learned a host of racist misogynist opinions from trolls. However, chatbots now operate as the frontline of customer service on a lot of websites; often that 'live chat' option isn't manned by a person, but by an algorithm designed to react to your needs with some pre-programmed answers. AI is also going deeper into the chatbot space; one chatbot program, Replika, is being trialled with teens who find it 'comforting' to talk to, and WIRED reported that the service, which is designed to learn from what you confess to it and respond in ways you like and find appropriate, can tell us a lot about AI's future.


Your Digital Assistant Is An AI In A Phone

Every time you talk to Siri, Cortana, Alexa or any other digital assistant, you're feeding data into an artificial intelligence system that uses it to curate new choices and options for you in the future. This is one of the big ways AI influences our lives: the personal products created to serve us in our smartphones, bringing up that Korean restaurant we liked once and suggesting good local kickboxing places, are an example of machine learning in action.


It's How We Compute Commuting Times

Whenever you input a question about the real-time distance from A to B into Google, the result it throws up is the product of AI. AI might be a bigger part of how we travel in the future — for instance, it's being suggested as a way of enforcing border control — but it's a key part of the commute for many of us right now. Google uses anonymized data from smartphones to detect how traffic is going on roads across the planet, allowing it to calculate the best places to get to your destination in real time while incorporating and learning from new data constantly.


The Autopilot On Your Plane Is An AI

How would you feel about an artificial intelligence flying your plane? Would you feel better if you knew that's how the aviation industry has been operating for many years? The autopilot on any commercial plane is actually an AI. WIRED explained in 2017 that people who were freaking out over Boeing's research into automated planes likely didn't know that autopilot these days is involves a "system that relies on a sophisticated network of sensors throughout the airplane to continually assess and adjust the speed, rate of climb, and other factors. At that point, the pilot can, for all intents, relax". Automated systems interact with some human input to keep people safe in the skies, and the safety record of planes worldwide indicates that it works.


AI Is Being Used To Generate News

The production of 'fake news' has been a big story over the past few years, and AI may have a role in it. We now know that algorithms are fully capable of producing fact-driven articles and news stories in limited periods, which is posited as a way to cut down on the need to hire actual writers, but also creates the possibility of automated "news factories" that will spam, say, Facebook or Twitter with trolling articles. The future of AI in journalism will be an interesting case study in how human creativity and accuracy match up with machine learning.

Artificial intelligence will keep shaping many of the ways in which we live our lives, but it's important not to see it as a new vogue. It's been part of everyday existence for many years, and we're only beginning to scratch the surface of its possibilities — and the ways it could go awry.