What is Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial Intelligence has been around for many years. It’s a way of computers or machines learning from repetitive tasks or input information and then using the information to make decisions about future tasks on its own.
This could be as simple as analysing a shoppers regular grocery bill and sending a coupon for an item which is regularly purchased. Or monitoring an online shopping site and recommending products that other shoppers bought with an item you have just put in your basket.
A lot of the AI in wide commercial use today is known as narrow AI (or weak AI) and it is designed to perform a single, narrow task, like facial recognition on Facebook posts. As technology progresses, the goal is for researchers to get to General AI (AGI or strong AI). Strong AI is aiming to outperform humans at almost every cognitive task and applies to learn in different contexts.
Some examples of AI include Alexa and Siri, spam filters on email and song or tv show recommendations from Spotify and Netflix as well as more complex uses such as self-drive cars.
AI is built from a set of algorithms and intelligence which tries to mimic human intelligence. Machine learning and Deep learning are two techniques used by machines to ‘learn’. Machine learning uses algorithms to parse data, learn from that data and make informed decisions based on what it has learned. Deep learning structures algorithms in layers to create an “artificial neural network” that can learn and make intelligent decisions on its own.
As with most things, artificial intelligence has its advantages and disadvantages. One concern with AI is the race towards autonomous weapons. It would only be a matter of time before such weapons could end up on the black market and in hands of the wrong people. On the other hand, AI utilised in a warzone could mean less casualties.
An advantage of AI is the coupons that get generated when paying for our shopping; the loyalty cards we use track our purchases and pick items that you are most likely to buy to offer discounts on these items. This can enable retailers to offer gifts and suitable offers to customers which give a feeling of personal interaction.
AI systems have had an impact during the COVID-19 pandemic. One example is allowing people to shop without coming into contact with grocery store employees. For example, some stores in America are testing AI using a basket full of sensors that will detect the products you chose as you shop and bill you when you leave the store with those items without you having to go via a checkout. It means minimal human contact and minimises the spread of the disease.
One of the current leading AI research companies in the world is Google. It’s DeepMind AI AlphaGo has made also the biggest effort to raise the public awareness of what AI is. Check out their website at https://ai.google/ for details on their projects.