Breakthrough technologies will affect the economy and our politics, improve medicine, or influence our culture. Some are unfolding now; others will take a decade or more to develop.
Reinforcement learning is one of top 10 breakthrough technologies listed recently by MIT Technology Review. By experimenting, computers are figuring out how to do things that no programmer could teach them.
The setting where you will probably most notice the remarkably humanlike behavior of this technology is in self-driving cars. Today’s driverless vehicles often falter in complex situations that involve interacting with human drivers, such as traffic circles or four-way stops. If we don’t want them to take unnecessary risks, or to clog the roads by being overly hesitant, they will need to acquire more nuanced driving skills, like jostling for position in a crowd of other cars. Progress would proceed much more slowly if programmers had to encode all such decisions into cars in advance.
For more information, please read the article in the March-April 2017 issue of MIT Technology Review: