AI 101

Of all the data that has ever been collected on Earth, 90 percent of it was created in the past two years. (1) This spike of available big data, combined with access to cheap computing power, has led to an explosion of advances in the AI (artificial intelligence) field. And with every new advance comes a myriad of potential applications.

But what is AI?

A computer is considered to be artificially intelligent if it has human-like abilities and senses. The goal of creating these machines is to complete work that previously required human intervention like recognizing objects or talking with customers.
Nestled in AI is machine learning. Humans are born with very little base knowledge, and generally rely on knowledge about similar tasks when approaching new tasks. In the same way, this subset consists of machines that can learn what is a correct response to a completely new input based on past experiences with similar inputs.
Inside machine learning is deep learning, which copies how human brains are structured to create a computer brain that can make decisions in the same ways. The process acts like human thought recreated in code.
Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Deep Learning

Some examples of current AI would be virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa and facial recognition in Facebook photo uploads. What these have in common is that they take an input from the user (e.g., a spoken sentence, an image) that they have never seen before and return an answer without human intervention. With every new piece of information or interaction, they get a little bit smarter at providing accurate answers.

So, what is AI not?

AI is not a series of “if” statements. Programs previously had to be coded to handle each input and return a pre-defined output. For example, if a user types, “How is your day?” the program should return “Great!” If the same user instead started their day by asking the computer “How has your day been?” the program errors out and doesn’t know what to do as the phrasing is not exactly the same.
Humans are much more fluid than machines. Hence the appeal and interest in implementing AI in all facets that require machine-human interaction. These machines are able to infer what the user meant by their statement and respond appropriately.

I feel like movies warned me about this…

Does having human-like brains in computers make you uncomfortable? No need to worry as it is out of your control. Humankind being entirely outsmarted by machines is a near guarantee in our future. With a world full of curious creators and inventors, there’s no stopping progress towards this reality.

But, the ability for a human to train an incredibly intelligent machine to act human opens the door to endless positive possibilities. Inventing AI was like finding a new precious metal. In response, just as humans moved from the Bronze Age to the Steel Age, we are now nestling into the Information Age. AI provides a new, efficient approach to problems of all kinds and its applications are limited only by human creativity.

There’s a lot to be excited about.

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