Artificial intelligence (AI) offers strange and exciting new avenues of use through technological advancements and a better understanding of what AI is capable of achieving. In many cases, the new applications for artificial intelligence are unexpected, even to the closest followers of tech trends. Some carry hope for creating a better world, some portend gloom and doom, and some are just plain weird. Here are a few of the oddest advances that AI has made, what they mean for the world, and what we might expect from them moving forward.

Nanotech

Nanotechnology, often shortened to just “nanotech,” is the science of changing matter on microscopic levels, manipulating the molecular or atomic structure of tiny particles. This scientific discipline was previously the domain of science fiction, only theoretical and without any grounding in the real world. However, with massive investments in research and development in recent years, the industry has grown into a real-world treasure trove of possible applications. In the medical community, nanotech is being explored as an option for healing wounds. Researchers recently successfully sped up the healing process significantly using nanotech to repair damaged skin on a molecular level. This could potentially save thousands of lives each year by cutting down on the rates of infections and other complications from wounds that do not heal properly or quickly enough.

Teaching Cars Morals

Traffic accidents are a leading cause of death among certain age demographics. While advances in technology like airbags and seatbelts have helped save lives, death by collision is still a major public health problem. Self-driving cars, using AI to steer rather than accident-prone people, can eliminate many traffic injuries and fatalities. Researchers have toyed with so-called “morality settings”, figuring moral dilemmas into a self-driving car’s decision-making process. Self-driving cars with programmed morality beg the question of liability, however. Who is responsible in the event of an accident, the programmer or the machine?

Artificial Bees

The population of pollinator insects around the world has been dwindling in recent decades. This is due to a combination of climate change and the increased use of toxic pesticides, as well as other factors. Lower numbers of bees and other pollinators pose a huge threat to the delicate balance of Earth’s ecosystems. Replacing bees may become necessary in the future, which is where AI steps in. Research is already underway to program mechanical bees to perform the same pollination activities of biological bees.

As we move into the future, many new strange opportunities for AI applications will likely emerge. It is even likely that AI itself will engineer new applications for itself that have thus far escaped the imaginations of engineers who are building it. As many have theorized for years, the essential question is not whether AI will profoundly change the world and how we interact with it, but whether that change will be positive or negative. Either way, the AI genie will soon be out of the bottle and impossible to put back in.