Ingram Blog

Artificial Intelligence

Joyce Skokut, Director Collection Development
If Stephen Hawking was afraid of it… When executives from Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and another 100 business leaders visit the White House to attend a meeting about the need for a strategy for it… you know you should pay attention. Whether you’re aware of it or not, artificial intelligence (AI) is already at work all around you.

Apple users, Siri is at your service. Smartphone apps tell you when unknown callers are scammers. Amazon’s Echo can take your song requests and stream music, read your audio or Kindle books to you, be your trivia night MC, set timers, walk you through recipes, order takeout, call an Uber, and more. For your home, there are smart thermostats, smart lightbulbs, smart window shades, smart doorbells, smart pet feeders, and more. These are the things powered by AI that we can see and touch. But AI has been in use in places such as commercial airplanes for a long time. In many cities traffic lights use AI to minimize wait times. However, those aren’t the examples that make people nervous. The jump from aviation’s autopilot to self-driving cars is a BIG leap that many find alarming. Facial recognition software, tracking software that delivers targeted ads, and interactive robots can be unnerving. Articles this spring warned about LaGuardia Airport’s security robots “creeping up on people” in an unnerving fashion, while the scammers and illegal cab drivers it was intended to thwart merely laugh at them.

Machine Learning, a close cousin to AI, is impacting so many industries, from medicine to data security, financial trading, online searching, and even smart cars. But it’s also used in less obvious ways, such as analyzing someone’s Twitter feed for psychopathic tendencies, trying to save North Atlantic right whales by creating a buoy network that scans the ocean for whale calls in the hope of minimizing collisions between transport ships and whales, and even predicting earthquakes.

Whether doing dangerous jobs such as defusing bombs or doing good deeds such as the robot companion, Pepper, that sold out within one minute of release in Japan, there are a myriad of upsides to the ways that AI can and does enrich our lives. And like everything in life, there are pros and cons to AI. I’m not quite sure that this is a con, but there has been much news about AI taking away some traditional human-occupied jobs. And there is no question that it will happen—the question is simply which jobs and when. This is one way that libraries can play a vital role in their communities. Many libraries are equipped with technology—computers, iPads, or 3D printers, that can help young people who might otherwise not have access to those things, learn about technology. Yes, some jobs will become obsolete, but new jobs will appear. And the library is a fantastic place for people to learn about those possibilities and to do a little dreaming.

Becky Walton and Debbie Davenport, Collection Development Librarians, have created wonderful lists of titles for adults and youth on the subject for you and your patrons, and we hope you’ll check them out. But don’t stop there, Ingram has all the sci-fi books and movies your patrons want too!

I don’t know about you, but while I can certainly appreciate the finer uses of AI and ML, I don’t really need the notifications that come via my phone that light rain is about to begin in precisely 17 minutes. There are many fine lines when it comes to this kind of technology, and we can only hope that it’ll be used responsibly and for the greater good. As Becky said, “It’s all fun and games until the robots become self-aware.”


Discover our other Library Collection Development blogs: