1. What is an Intelligent System?

Many definitions of intelligence exist, but for our purposes we use the following: intelligence is the ability to reach ones objectives. A system is more intelligent if it reaches its objectives faster and easier. This includes the ability to learn to do this. The intelligence of a system is a property of its mind. The mind is the functioning of its brain.

A system is part of the universe, with a limited extension in space and time. Stronger or more correlations exist between one part of the system and another, than between this part of the system and parts outside the system.

An intelligent system is a system that has its own main objective, as well as senses and actuators. To reach its objective it chooses an action based on its experiences. It can learn by generalizing the experiences it has stored in its memories. Examples of intelligent systems are: persons, higher animals, robots, extraterrestrials, a business, a nation.

2. How is it relevant to mining engineering?

I guess the right question is how is it NOT relevant to mining? Intelligent Systems has various implications throughout the mining industry, the most obvious being that human beings will no longer have to risk their lives as autonomous machines can begin to do the more dangerous jobs. Artificial intelligence, in its more developed form, will be able to adapt to an infinite number of situations more quickly than humans possibly can and therefore will be more effective.

Another notable relevant point in mining is as a rescue robot during a mining collapse. Normally, it would be extremely risky to send humans down the mine but having a robot go down is a wonderful alternative.

3. Why do we need it now?

Apart from the fact that intelligent systems will transform the mining industry, there is also a growing trend towards automation as we enter the machine era. A study carried out by Hatch Associates in Canada for Industry Science & Technology of the Canadian Federal Government maps out 4 curves showing the evolution of Canadian mining technologies towards Automation & Autonomous Mining. It's very clear from the graph that during these next few years Autonomous Mining will dramatically increase as the main technology used in Canadian Mines. Just imagine how much more important is it for companies and individuals to be knowledgeable in Intelligent Systems in Mining!

4. Are there potential problems related to artificial technology?

The widespread use of artificial intelligent systems will bring prosperity and wellbeing to the population of our planet. Intelligent Systems as robots, as intelligent automation and as advisor programs within computers, will do all the work that we do not wish to do. We will be free of material worries and will be able to enjoy life.

But this is a new "industrial revolution" and the transition from a society based on work to one based on leisure has to be handled carefully. Widespread unemployment can be avoided by spreading the available work between all that are willing to work. The method is a reduction of weekly working hours. Finally work per week will be so low that a different means of income and maintaining purchasing power, has to be found. This may be the "social dividend". Each citizen would be a shareholder of the state and receive a monthly dividend. The funds for this would come mainly from the profits of the robotized factories.

Are robots a danger to humanity? A robot with a main objective of pleasing human beings is of great help, but a robot with a main objective of its own survival is very dangerous. Since they will be thinking much faster and more accurately than we, they will, for their own purposes use all available resources and we would be helpless. Such a robot should be illegal and should be destroyed as soon as detected.

Courtesy of Walter Fritz, New Horizon Press