Port Technology: Demistyfiying AI

Press Review

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This article was published in Edition 77 of Port Technology in 2018.

“You are my creator, but I am your master.” These chilling words from Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein were first published on January 1, 1818, during the First Industrial Revolution; a period of great social and technological change. Considered by many to be the first work of science fiction, the story influenced not only literature, drama, and film but also the public's perception of science.

2018 marks Frankenstein’s 200th anniversary, and at the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the myth of creature turning on creator seems more relevant than ever before. Having escaped the laboratories of many tech companies, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is poised to change our society for good. While human-level AI is not yet looming around the corner, we constantly carry some form of AI in our pockets today. The irony is that Siri, Alexa, and Cortana, while comparable to Frankenstein in so many ways, aren’t perceived to be frightening characters. Rather, these AI enhanced assistants have become an ordinary, if not integral part of our lives and workplaces.

This article will take you on a journey to the past, present, and future of AI. To unpack this story, we need to have a few stops along the way (feel free to skip ahead if you know the background). Firstly, we need a quick reference point of what AI is. Then, it is worth identifying why INFORM is qualified to speak on the subject. From here we will explore how AI is being applied in the container terminal market today. Finally, we'll discuss what the role of humans is likely to be in the future and whether any of us will have jobs.


Artificial Intelligence is an area of computer science that's concerned with building systems that demonstrate intelligent behaviour. Most people find it difficult to agree on a precise definition of intelligence, so people's view of what AI means also tends to diverge.


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For most people, when they hear the term Artificial Intelligence, or AI, they think of a General AI, or human-level AI, that can mimic all aspects of human intelligence. The simple truth, however, is that today, AI is far away from this. Instead, AI vendors have succeeded in building niche, or so-called Narrow AI systems that know how to do reasonably specific things very well (for instance, play chess, translate between languages, understand natural language, or drive autonomous vehicles). It is these Narrow AI systems that are now making their way into our industry at a rapid pace as part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In contrast with General AI’s goal of mimicking human intelligence, Machine Learning tools (ML) use algorithms to iteratively learn from and adapt to data, enabling computers to find hidden insights without being instructed where to look. A beginner’s example for this can be found in your email inbox in the form of spam filters. Simple rule-based filters are not very effective against spam, since spammers can quickly update their messages to work around them. Instead, ML enhanced spam filters continuously learn from a variety of signals and tailor themselves to the email needs of the individual user.



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