Does Artificial Intelligence mean that mankind’s goal is to create human intelligence? Depends on who you ask. If that is the assumption, it is not likely to happen any time soon. Does AI mean that we have the ability to create control systems with more complex behavior? Yes, absolutely. And indeed, that is what Automation 4.0 is all about.
What that means and what it will look like are yet to be determined. This is a new age and a new set of tools and capabilities are emerging. Whatever that future of AI and industrial control is what we are presently engaged with creating now.
Perhaps the unstated aspect of Automation 4.0 movement is the engineering activity of combining the existing passive components of sensing and monitoring and integrating them in useful ways to make control systems more autonomous. Autonomy in this context does not imply the presence of will or desire, merely that the systems are able to operate with minimal operator intervention. Sufficient data is available and algorithms of control are written so that all the normal and most of the abnormal operating conditions are anticipated in the programming.
Defining what problems need to be solved is key component of the emerging “next generation of manufacturing”. As with most things, it will likely be based on where the most money can be made. For control systems the future might be kind of scary. Convergence of IT and manufacturing systems may result in control vendors be displaced by inexpensive processor platforms like cellphones. For component vendors, it is likely to be a party. Ever bearing, seal, actuator and sensor will be a candidate for it’s own re-invention as an intelligent internet device.
The driving force that makes all of this possible is the progressively decreasing cost of electronics and network infrastructure. What happens when smart silicon devices are $1 and Internet communications are practically free? These underlying trends are how we will apply technology to the next stage of control system evolution. Since everything in the real world can be represented as 0’s and 1’s, digitally, there appears to be no limit to our ability to gather data. Our programming genius will be the basis of how much of that data can be turned into meaningful information that can acted upon.
Does any of this constitute the Big AI? Can any of this pass the Turing Test? Certainly not.