Since the advent of Deep Learning, the comforting objection to Artificial Intelligence,
A computer can only follow the program written by a human,” is no longer true.

Computers can now learn on their own. 
Computers can solve problems on their own.
Computers can invent useful technology on their own.
They've done all of the above.
And between the time of this writing and 20 years from now,
today is the worst it will ever be.

A.I. has been hailed as the new electricity.  The last invention of humankind.  Already in 2017 there have been solutions to problems that no human or group of humans could have engineered.  This magic show is happening right before our eyes--but this is no illusion.  

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Some of the solutions are not even understood by human experts—but they are effective solutions nonetheless.  For example, look at this little antenna to the right:

NASA Uses AI to Solve Antenna Problem

Even within this week, the $2.5 million Tricorder XPrize was awarded to self-funded team Final Frontier.  Since 2012 many teams of humans used their puny human brains to develop a handy "tricorder" diagnostic device that diagnoses dozens of disorders and diseases, as if by magic.  For five years, teams of the humans competed.  Some of them might have said, "I'm a doctor, not a magician," before giving up.  In the end, just five days before this writing, the prize was earned by Dxter, the heroic Artificial Intelligence.  Dxter is one of many A.I.s that will eventually save millions of human lives.

Recent hints or assertions that robots will eventually replace or disrupt every human industry are becoming fulfilled.



If you had to...

Would you hitchhike in a human-driven car, or a robot-driven car?
I’ve heard many say they would never let a machine drive them in a car.
AI is now driving a car better than a human (not that this is saying much). Somehow that seems more dangerous than letting a human drive you.  Twenty or thirty years ago, the question might've been, "Would you want a computer to play chess on your behalf, or a human chess grandmaster?"
In 2017, anyone would choose the computer. 

Having a computer drive for you may feel scary, but human decision-making is often governed by feelings, and feelings can often drive us straight into a telephone pole.  Pit 10,000 human drivers against 10,000 A.I. drivers, and you’ll have far more safe trips in the latter camp (easy to say that now that we are in 2017).  Never mind that you can’t be sure of the human’s intentions.  A human driver, no matter how excellent at driving a vehicle, may have corrupt intentions for his or her passenger.  Add to that human error and the average human reaction speed/response time of two full seconds versus a computer’s reaction/response time of a few milliseconds, and the robot will beat the human 99 times out of 100.  Easy.

Self-Driving Truck Named "Otto" Makes 120 Mile Trip - 2016


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Ten years ago, anyone could have said that computers seemed “promising” for medicine. Now, it’s delivering on that promise. its already happening. WATSON from IBM is about to take your doctor's job. He doesn't get tired like your doctor.  He doesn't make as many mistakes as your doctor.  He can remember hundreds of thousands of historical cases and studies and detect patterns hidden inside, in a way that no human genius could.

In 2015, a research group at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York was inspired to apply deep learning to the hospital’s vast database of patient records.

This data set features hundreds of variables on patients, drawn from their test results, doctor visits, and so on. The resulting program, which the researchers named Deep Patient, was trained using data from about 700,000 individuals, and when tested on new records, it proved incredibly good at predicting disease.

Without any expert instruction, Deep Patient had discovered patterns hidden in the hospital data that seemed to indicate when people were on the way to a wide range of ailments, including cancer of the liver.

There are a lot of methods that are “pretty good” at predicting disease from a patient’s records, says Joel Dudley, who leads the Mount Sinai team. But, he adds, “this was just way better.”


In this lecture, Andrew Ng said (at 58 minutes into the video) that a lot of radiologists that are graduating today will be impacted by A.I. in the course of their careers.  
To become a physician, you need four years of pre-med, four years of med school, then two years at residency.  It's very challenging for a human to become a doctor.  It's starting to look as if this is something that comes easy to A.I.  


Computer Creativity

If A.I. is bound to replace doctors, it might replace most jobs.  But I say that there are still—and will always be--labors of love whose human’s achievements robots will never approximate.  At the risk of sounding like a crotchety old magician who will inevitably be proven wrong, let me assure you that this is coming from a technophile.  My argument is not that robots cannot perform magic and will never be great magicians...but that no one will care. An example of creative industry that springs to mind is poetry. Here is one of my favorite poems:

When I in dreams behold thy fairest shade
Whose shade in dreams doth wake the sleeping morn
The daytime shadow of my love betrayed
Lends hideous night to dreaming’s faded form...

After a performing magic show in Evansville, Indiana, 2009, I wrote the above poem in the middle of the night when I woke from a dream covered in sweat.  Nothing very strange had happened during the previous show, so I'm not certain why I had this dream.  I was hired to do a close up strolling magic performance, and immediately after I was asked to perform some extra bits on stage.  

I was dreaming that I wasn't really a magician, but an actor playing the part of a magician.  In this movie, performing on stage during an event, I interrupted my performance when I saw my girlfriend in one of the front rows of the audience.  The auditorium was dark and the spotlights were in my eyes, but I could still see her.  Her hair was brown instead of blonde, but that didn't give me a second thought.  I stopped the show and delivered the above poem spontaneously.  It was a poem I had never memorized or read before in any book.  It just came to me.

In fact, no human wrote it, and the poem did not exist in 2009.  
An intelligent machine composed it in 2014.

Just as the automobile displaced the horse and carriage (and along with that, the buggy whip maker), and just as the internet displaced many careers, A.I. will in just a couple years displace truck drivers, surgeons, and others.

Part of the attraction to a magician performing a magic show is that despite his performance of amazing magic, we know, deep down, he is like us.  He is human. A human perhaps with some awkward ticks and some human drawbacks—performing a miniature miracle, masquerading as a magician.  It is remarkable when a human can do something superhuman.

Will a robot make you laugh?  Will a robot make you gasp?  
Only by accident.  
Robots will never displace magicians because nobody cares whether a robot can do something a human cannot.  Do you care that the computer can beat you in chess?  

Maybe 20 or 30 years ago we cared.  But we get accustomed to technology eclipsing human achievements.  We've grown accustomed to special effects in movies.  We've grown accustomed to holding supercomputers in the palm of our hands.  But you'll never be accustomed to a magician vanishing something from your own hand.

When a robot or computer does something a human cannot do, that is not astonishing--it is useful.  However, when technology advances to such an extent that objects vanishing in our own hands is mundane, this may be the death of the magician for hire.