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Artificial IntelligenceArtificial Intelligence is a lesson that provides you with the opportunity to understand what is Artificial Intelligence (IA) as well as Virtual Reality (VR) and how is it a positive development. This lesson is centred around the theme Human Ingenuity from the IB Language B curriculum which provides you with an opportunity to explore the sciences, technology and creativity. In this lesson, we will practice our listening and reading skills by learning if Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR) can be used effectively.

Exercise 1Exercise 2Exercise 3Word ListExtension
Artificial Intelligence is changing the way we live and work. Most people only understand artificial intelligence by what they see in popular culture. What kinds of things is it used for that are mentioned in this video?

Click here to reveal the answer and read the transcript
1. Used in healthcare
2. Used in meteorology
3. Used in the military
4. Used to identify people
5. Used to play games

For better or worse many people only understand artificial intelligence as it is represented in popular culture and often those representations are inaccurate what is AI really the artificial part of AI is fairly straightforward. It refers to something human-made that doesn’t independently exist in nature. Intelligence is harder to define it could mean an exceptionally efficient capable computer or a program that can understand what makes a joke funny and then write its own jokes. It could mean a computer that can play jeopardy alongside human competitors so it’s more what AI can’t do that defines its present state of intelligence.

How are people using AI right now? It is being used in healthcare to help detect disease in meteorology to more accurately predict the weather. In warfare to make autonomous weapon systems. AI can identify your face and photos and estimate your age, emotions or even your creditworthiness. Essentially AI perceives its environment and then uses that data to state actions that maximize its chances of achieving its goals learning and adapting as it goes.

As AI is quietly being integrated into our lives it’s useful to understand how it works and what comes next. One way to identify different types of AI is based on the way that AI functions in the world. When it’s diagnosing disease IBM’s Watson computer operates very differently from Siri or Alexa. In the AI at Facebook or other companies used for facial recognition is yet another type of AI. Narrow AI is the type of AI system that can perform a single task in real-time like playing chess. The information that it uses to do that task is limited to a specific data set like all the possible moves in the chess game. This type of AI can’t perform outside of the single task that it is designed for.

Artificial general intelligence is also known as a strong IA. This form of intelligence would be able to tackle multiple complex problems without guidance or training. Ultimately being able to think and reason as well as a human being. Beyond this milestone is something even more mind-blowing, artificial superintelligence the idea is that once AI achieves general intelligence it would have all the tools it needs to make itself smarter. This AI self-improvement could result in an exponential explosion of intelligence some called the singularity.

Where the AI quickly grows to surpass the combined minds of all of humanity and beyond some say this technological singularity could happen as soon as 2045. A future as mind-boggling and unknowable as the singularities namesake. Learn more about the future of AI at futureoftech.org

You will hear a news report on how NASA is using high school to develop new virtual reality (VR) programs for space and Earth exploration. Listen to the report and answer the following questions.

NASA taps young people to help develop virtual reality technology by Rebecca Hersher

Click here to view transcript


NASA has big hopes for virtual reality technology. The agency is developing a suite of virtual reality environments at Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland, that could be used for everything from geological research to repairing orbiting satellites.

One displays fiery ejections from the Sun. In another, scientists can watch magnetic fields pulse around the earth. A virtual rendering of an ancient lava tube in Idaho makes scientists feel like they’re standing at the bottom of an actual cave.

“I think, and I hope, this can be extremely useful for NASA scientists,” explains NASA engineer Thomas Grubb, who manages the program.

The goal, he says, is to scale up the use of virtual reality technology in NASA labs, and go beyond public applications like the Mars immersion program that allows users to explore the Martian surface. For example, NASA volcanologist Brent Garry is hoping that virtual visits to a rock formation in Idaho can help him plan research trips in real life. That same VR environment also allows users to measure distances and leave notes in the landscape.

“You know, it’s cheaper to have people go to a lava tube in VR than to actually fly them out there for two weeks,” says Grubb.

Another application in development could allow technicians to repair satellites. People on earth could watch in real-time as they manipulate actual tools in space. If the repairs are successful, satellites that would have died when their batteries did could keep working instead. “All of these things can save a lot of money or time, or just enable new things,” says Grubb.

And Grubb has stumbled upon a new talent source to help develop the pilot programs: young students, some of them still in high school.

“I went into this [thinking] ‘I’ll take a couple of interns or whatever,'” he says, imagining he’d get a single college student to help with some coding. But he says when he posted the job, “I got all these amazing students coming back. And I was like ‘I want more than this.’ I ended up with five [interns].”

One of them was a high school senior Jackson Ames. In addition to taking some computer science classes in school, Ames plays video games. “A lot of the games require strategy and teamwork. One of my favourites is called ‘Onward’,” he explains. Onward is a war simulation game. It’s supposed to make players feel like they’re soldiers fighting a battle. You play with a VR headset covering your eyes and a controller in each hand.

“It’s much more realistic than anything else,” says Ames. “It adds a whole new layer.”

Ames plays the game many times a week, which gives him an intuitive sense of what works, and what doesn’t, in VR.

Young people also bring certain ease with learning new technologies. Stewy Slocum, a 17-year-old college freshman who worked on the lava tube simulation, says video games got him interested in virtual reality programming too. But he’s not that into gaming anymore — that was more of a high school thing — and he hadn’t had much experience with VR technology before he arrived at NASA.

Still, he quickly learned how to use the VR system he was working with. That is often not the case for some more experienced researchers.

“There were definitely some older people who tried [the virtual reality system] and struggled at first, because they’re not used to having all ten fingers working at once,” says Garry. “They’re like ‘Am I going to fall? Am I going to trip on something?”

Once people navigate the initial learning curve, exploring virtual reality can go from alarming to fun pretty quickly. The growing popularity of virtual reality systems like the HTC Vibe and Oculus Rift for video games and education has made virtual reality technology more mainstream, but that can actually act as an obstacle to using VR technology for research, Grubb says.

“People think ‘This is too cool and too much fun. How can this be work?’,” he laughs. “We’re trying to show scientists that, ‘Hey, this technology has a lot to offer.'”

Read the article about how Artificial Intelligence actually works and then answer the questions that follow.

Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk argues that artificial intelligence (AI) poses a greater threat to humanity than nuclear weapons, while Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes AI will save lives.

Regardless of whether you agree with Musk’s or Zuckerberg’s argument, what is clear is that AI is reshaping the world we live in. It’s driving advances in medicine and autonomous vehicles and disrupting industries from manufacturing to marketing. And although we may not be aware of it, we are already using it in our Facebook news feeds, when we talk to Siri on our iPhones or ask our Alexa-enabled speakers to play a track.

Yet although it’s powering products and services we use every day, AI remains a mystery to many of us. So Facebook AI experts Yann LeCun and Joaquin Quiñonero Candela have set about simplifying this complex field of computer science in a series of educational videos and blog posts.

‘Not magic, just code’

“Artificial intelligence is not magic,” write LeCun, head of Facebook’s AI research, and Candela, Facebook’s Director of Applied Machine Learning, in their blog. “But we have already seen how it can make seemingly magical advances in scientific research and contribute to the everyday marvel of identifying objects in photos, recognizing speech, driving a car, or translating an online post into dozens of languages.”

How does it do this? Many intelligent machines and systems use algorithmic techniques loosely based on the human brain. These neural networks can learn to recognize patterns, translate languages, do simple logical reasoning, create images and even come up with ideas.

“All of this happens at blinding speed through a set of coded programs designed to run neural networks with millions of units and billions of connections,” write LeCun and Candela. “Intelligence emerges out of the interaction between this large number of simple elements.”

If, for example, you want to teach a computer to tell the difference between a car and a dog, instead of programming it to carry out the task, you can train it to recognize objects in images so that it learns for itself.

So what is deep learning?

Deep learning is a type of machine learning that structures neural networks in multiple processing layers. This helps a computer to identify what is in an image or learn to recognize speech and text.

“In a park, we can see a collie and a chihuahua, but recognize them both as dogs, despite their size and weight variations,” write LeCun and Candela. “To a computer, an image is simply an array of numbers. Within this array of numbers, local motifs, such as the edge of an object, are easily detectable in the first layer.

“The next layer would detect combinations of these simple motifs that form simple shapes, like the wheel of a car or the eyes in a face.

“The next layer will detect combinations of shapes that form parts of objects, like a face, a leg, or the wing of an airplane.

“The last layer would detect combinations of parts that form objects: a car, an airplane, a person, a dog, etc. The depth of the network – with its multiple layers – is what allows it to recognize complex patterns in this hierarchical fashion.”

Deep learning is helping to push forward research in fields including physics, engineering, biology and medicine. It is also at the heart of the development of autonomous systems such as self-driving vehicles.

What about AI’s impact on jobs?

Despite growing anxiety over automation eliminating jobs, LeCun and Candela believe that AI will create new roles for humans in manufacturing, training, sales and maintenance and management of intelligent robots.

“AI and robots will enable the creation of new services that are difficult to imagine today. But it’s clear that health care and transportation will be among the first industries to be completely transformed by it,” they write.

“Increasingly, human intellectual activities will be performed in conjunction with intelligent machines. Our intelligence is what makes us human, and AI is an extension of that quality.”

1. What are two industries that artificial intelligence is already being used in?

2.  What are two examples that make artificial intelligence seem like 'magic'?

3, List what a computer does in the four layers of recognition that LeCun and Candela describe.

4. A computer can tell the difference between a car and a dog by training it to recognise objects in images so that it learns for itself.

5. Mark Zuckerberg believes that AI will save lives.

6. When we talk to Siri, this isn't real Artificial Intelligence.

7. AI machines use algorithmic techniques similar to a .

8. To a computer, an image is an .

9. AI will create new services that are today.


Here are the words and phrases covered in this lesson about artificial intelligence:

  • artificial intelligence
  • artificial superintelligence
  • creditworthiness
  • deep learning
  • diagnosing disease
  • exponential explosion
  • facial recognition
  • geological research
  • humanity
  • integrated
  • meteorology
  • milestone
  • mind-blowing
  • recognizing speech
  • singularity
  • virtual reality environments
  • virtual reality technology
Research an innovation involving virtual reality or artificial intelligence. After reading about it, think of a question it raises in your mind on its positive or negative effects. Do a presentation to the class or a friend.

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Here you will find exercise to practice for the different sections of IB English B examination for either the Standard (SL) or Higher Level (HL) papers.
Learning English requires not just a good vocabulary, but a strong foundation of English grammar to communicate effectively.

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Word puzzles require not just a good vocabulary and a knack for spelling, but the ability to think logically and strategically.
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