It has been long cited that Edison gave 1,000 trials to the invention of the light bulb; all logged manually to a notebook with detailed descriptions about the result of each experiment. There are six years between Louis Pasteur’s conception of the idea of vaccines and the vaccination of the first human subject; with countless experiments in between. Mme. Curie spent years in a laboratory to explore various uses of radium and even take some to the battlefield during WWI. Today, names of these scientists are synonymous with the zenith of human intellect and greatness. However, when we celebrate their memories, we do not celebrate only the glory and revelation, we also celebrate the suffering and sacrifice made by these people, in the name of a greater good; as he was working on pasteurization process and conceptualizing the vaccine, two of Pasteur’s five children had died from diseases that can be prevented by vaccines today. Madame Curie gave her life to explore beneficial uses of radium, and Edison spent valuable years of his life for something that we take for granted and so unimpressed by today, the light bulb.
When you read the stories of these scientists in a sequence, the tragedy overwhelms you and a certain question appear again and again in your mind, “What if?” “What if it weren’t that demanding, what if it did not require such sacrifice of dear life and time? What would happen then? How many more inventions would these people have made? Would that maximize the global and timeless benefit harvested from their genius? What that troubles us today, would be less of a problem?”
In their best uses, AI and VR answer these questions perfectly. Today, machine learning and deep learning, both sub-disciplines of AI, save time and effort to scientists in many fields. Now, time saved from gathering data, comparison, or deduction processes can be allocated to discover alternative uses for emerging technologies or further some early-stage research. Twenty years to produce enough data to infer from and a burdensome process of inference is now squeezed into a data-feeding process and phases of programming. Nowadays, scientists can feed AI with ‘supposed’ or synthetic data sets that represent possible outcomes and then if the system can evaluate these correctly, adjust the algorithm to work on real data samples.
However, time is the simplest gift AI and VR can give us. Utilized the right way and in the right field, these technologies can save lives and alleviate tremendous pain. When used in military settings, VR helps high-ranked officers strategize better through presenting them with different scenarios. VR drills give a sense of reality that converges the psychological responses of soldiers to reality, and by eliminating the theatrical effect of traditional drills, gives a realistic picture of how a certain combatant would respond to danger in real settings. It also minimizes the risk of ‘training casualties’, taking the dangers of drills pose especially for inexperienced combatants out of the equation while maintaining the rigor and psychological training involved in military training intact. Another possible use of VR is in medicine. VR HMDs are used in medicine by practitioners and patients alike. Last year, Prof. Greg Hannon from Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute (CRUK) and his team used VR for a journey inside a tumor. Dr. Hannon and his team believe that the use of VR in cancer research will give medical professionals a greater insight into the disease, and aid oncologists in finding new solutions. This use of VR can also be utilized in university hospitals and medical schools, increasing the quality of medical education through cutting-edge technology. On the patient side, VR is used as a distraction to combat anxiety caused by chronic diseases. Through the sense of movement it gives, it is hypothesized that VR can even be used to prolong the lives of bedridden patients. It also temporarily compensates the loss of abilities due to many illnesses from ALS to amblyopia by supplying senses of motion and vision. For patients suffering from terminal illnesses such as untreatable cancer, Huntington’s disease, and neurodegenerative diseases, VR aids palliative care professionals in pain management, and fulfills the last wishes of many patients.
The use of AI, as a bigger concept, spreads far wider. This past August, Professor Assad Oberai from USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering, hit the headlines with his machine learning algorithm that can play a vital role in the diagnosis of cancer. Prof. Oberai and his team fed their system with synthetic data about various types of tumours and reached a %100 accuracy rate in determining whether a lesion is benign or malignant. After this phase, the system was fed with ten real cases for which it scored a %80 accurate determination rate. Beyond medicine, AI and machine learning can be used in almost everything from predicting and preventing social crises or civil wars, decreasing infant mortality rates, and can combating crime. Papilon’s very own plate recognition system is an example of that. Built upon a machine learning algorithm that performs a multi-step identification, it can detect forged or changed plates and can aid law enforcement in the fight against human and drug trafficking, as well as illegal trade.
These cases are the epitome of what is good about AI and VR. In the fronts of saving time and effort, they enable an interaction between scientific disciplines at a rate never seen before. This way, a stepping stone in a field can further the studies in another making scientific effort a cumulative and cooperative practice and maximizes benefit. It also saves both the scientists and hopeful patients, families of military officers, and civilians living near border zones much of the trouble as waiting for a solution does not take long anymore. However, misuses of these new age miracles breed fear in policymakers, sensible, citizens, and scientists in fields of computer science and innovation. In the next piece, we will talk about why some actors opt to work on ‘the bad’ side of AI and VR, and what is so alluring or profitable in the bad.