What Is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. The term may also be applied to any machine that exhibits traits associated with a human mind such as learning and problem-solving.

It can also be seen as a wide-ranging branch of computer science concerned with building smart machines capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence. AI is an interdisciplinary science with multiple approaches, but advancements in machine learning and deep learning are creating a paradigm shift in virtually every sector of the tech industry. 

The ideal characteristic of artificial intelligence is its ability to rationalize and take actions that have the best chance of achieving a specific goal.

Comprehending Artificial Intelligence

When most people hear the term artificial intelligence, the first thing they usually think of is robots. That’s because big-budget films and novels weave stories about human-like machines that wreak havoc on Earth. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Artificial intelligence is based on the principle that human intelligence can be defined in a way that a machine can easily mimic it and execute tasks, from the most simple to those that are even more complex. The goals of artificial intelligence include learning, reasoning, and perception.

As technology advances, previous benchmarks that defined artificial intelligence become outdated. For example, machines that calculate basic functions or recognize text through optimal character recognition are no longer considered to embody artificial intelligence, since this function is now taken for granted as an inherent computer function.

AI is continuously evolving to benefit many different industries. Machines are wired using a cross-disciplinary approach based in mathematics, computer science, linguistics, psychology, and more.

The Workings Of Artificial Intelligence

Less than a decade after breaking the Nazi encryption machine Enigma and helping the Allied Forces win World War II, mathematician Alan Turing changed history a second time with a simple question: “Can machines think?” 

Turing’s paper “Computing Machinery And Intelligence” (1950), and it’s subsequent Turing Test, established the fundamental goal and vision of artificial intelligence.   

what is artificial intelligenceAt it’s core, AI is the branch of computer science that aims to answer Turing’s question in the affirmative. It is the endeavor to replicate or simulate human intelligence in machines.

The expansive goal of artificial intelligence has given rise to many questions and debates. So much so, that no singular definition of the field is universally accepted.  

The major limitation in defining AI as simply “building machines that are intelligent” is that it doesn’t actually explain what artificial intelligence is? What makes a machine intelligent?

In their groundbreaking textbook Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, authors Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig approach the question by unifying their work around the theme of intelligent agents in machines. With this in mind, AI is “the study of agents that receive percepts from the environment and perform actions.” (Russel and Norvig viii)

Norvig and Russell go on to explore four different approaches that have historically defined the field of AI: 

  1. Thinking humanly
  2. Thinking rationally
  3. Acting humanly 
  4. Acting rationally

The first two ideas concern thought processes and reasoning, while the others deal with behavior. Norvig and Russell focus particularly on rational agents that act to achieve the best outcome, noting “all the skills needed for the Turing Test also allow an agent to act rationally.” (Russel and Norvig 4).

Patrick Winston, the Ford professor of artificial intelligence and computer science at MIT, defined AI as  “algorithms enabled by constraints, exposed by representations that support models targeted at loops that tie thinking, perception and action together.

While these definitions may seem abstract to the average person, they help focus the field as an area of computer science and provide a blueprint for infusing machines and programs with machine learning and other subsets of artificial intelligence. 

While addressing a crowd at the Japan AI Experience in 2017,  DataRobot CEO Jeremy Achin began his speech by offering the following definition of how AI is used today:

“AI is a computer system able to perform tasks that ordinarily require human intelligence… Many of these artificial intelligence systems are powered by machine learning, some of them are powered by deep learning and some of them are powered by very boring things like rules.” 

Applications of Artificial Intelligence

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The applications of artificial intelligence are endless. The technology can be applied to many different sectors and industries. AI is being tested and used in the healthcare industry for dosing drugs and different treatment in patients, and for surgical procedures in the operating room.

Other examples of machines with artificial intelligence include computers that play chess and Self -Driving- Cars. Each of these machines must weigh the consequences of any action they take, as each action will impact the end result. In chess, the end result is winning the game. For self-driving cars, the computer system must account for all external data and compute it to act in a way that prevents a collision.

Artificial intelligence also has applications in the financial industry, where it is used to detect and flag activity in banking and finance such as unusual debit card usage and large account deposits—all of which help a bank’s fraud department. Applications for AI are also being used to help streamline and make trading easier. This is done by making supply, demand, and pricing of securities easier to estimate.

FACTS ABOUT ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

  • Artificial intelligence refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines.
  • The goals of artificial intelligence include learning, reasoning, and perception.
  • AI is being used across different industries including finance and healthcare.
  • Weak AI tends to be simple and single-task oriented, while strong AI carries on tasks that are more complex and human-like.

Categories Of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence can be divided into two different categories: weak and strong. Weak Artificial Intelligence embodies a system designed to carry out one particular job. Weak AI systems include video games such as the chess example from above and personal assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. You ask the assistant a question, it answers it for you.

Strong artificial Intelligence systems are systems that carry on the tasks considered to be human-like. These tend to be more complex and complicated systems. They are programmed to handle situations in which they may be required to problem solve without having a person intervene. These kinds of systems can be found in applications like self-driving cars or in hospital operating rooms.

Special Considerations

Since its beginning, artificial intelligence has come under scrutiny from scientists and the public alike. One common theme is the idea that machines will become so highly developed that humans will not be able to keep up and they will take off on their own, redesigning themselves at an exponential rate.

Another is that machines can hack into people’s privacy and even be weaponized. Other arguments debate the ethics of artificial intelligence and whether intelligent systems such as robots should be treated with the same rights as humans.

Self-driving cars have been fairly controversial as their machines tend to be designed for the lowest possible risk and the least casualties. If presented with a scenario of colliding with one person or another at the same time, these cars would calculate the option that would cause the least amount of damage.

Another contentious issue many people have with artificial intelligence is how it may affect human employment. With many industries looking to automate certain jobs through the use of intelligent machinery, there is a concern that people would be pushed out of the workforce. Self-driving cars may remove the need for taxis and car-share programs, while manufacturers may easily replace human labor with machines, making people’s skills more obsolete.

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