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Understanding Artificial Intelligence

Understanding Artificial Intelligence

What is Artificial Intelligence?

The idea that machines can learn from large amounts of data and be able to think like humans – or even more superior than humans, is concerned with the theory of artificial intelligence. But what does that actually mean? Artificial intelligence is the ability of a machine or program to think and learn in an intellectual way (basically). But before we can really understand AI, we must first ask ourselves, what is machine learning?


Machine Learning

While AI and machine learning are two terms that should not be used interchangeably, it is helpful to understand one when you know the other. Machine learning is an application of AI in which computers access data, utilize it, and learn for themselves. This may sound like a similar definition to AI, however the difference is that AI utilizes many technologies that include machine learning as well as other technologies that allow it to perform a specific function such as language processing, neural networks etc.


Within machine learning, there are two distinct types that exist, supervised and unsupervised learning. Supervised learning is the process of analyzing data in an input-output relation to learn a function and use it to map possible situations. The algorithm learns by comparing results with the desired output and is able to make necessary adjustments in order to achieve an optimal conclusion. This type of machine learning is used to predict future events based on historical data eg. Predicting stock market fluctuations. The majority of practical machine learning techniques use this method.


The second type of machine learning is unsupervised learning. This method uses data that is unlabelled and the algorithm is required to find commonalities within the data. The purpose of this type of machine learning is to find patterns within complex data that wouldn’t otherwise be discovered through human power. For example, unsupervised learning is used to sort a customer’s transactional data in order to create targeted advertising specifically for them.




Modern AI

Now that we have learned a little bit about how this technology works, we can analyze how artificial intelligence has worked its way into our daily lives and its many uses. When we think of AI, images of robots taking over rebelling against humanity and threatening our existence may arise. What may be shocking is that most of us rely on AI daily, and use it more than we are aware of. Do you use SIRI, Alexa, Netflix, or Nest? Maybe you drive a Tesla? These are all common examples of modern AI encompassing us today. These products of intelligence enhance our human experience and make our lives easier by saving us time on aimless tasks that can be spent doing something more productive.


So what can AI actually do besides recommend us movies or music we might enjoy? The list appears to be endless. Here are just a few of its capabilities:

  • Navigate maps
  • Speak
  • Drive
  • Spot cancer in tissue slides
  • Discover new uses for existing drugs
  • Trade stocks
  • Write its own encryption language
  • Verify your identity
  • Recognize facial expressions

AI can perform many, if not all of these functions better than any human professional can due to its ability to manage expansive amounts of data and apply theoretical understanding. Which leads to the end goal of AI: be able to perform any intellectual task a human can perform.


What’s next?

One question we’re all probably wondering surrounding this bubble of AI is: what’s coming next? AI is evolving quickly, but we are not even close to the summit of our intelligence.


Can we create machines that are smarter than we are? More competent than we are? Can we create machines that possess human characteristics such as rationality, ethical and moral imagination and even empathy? With intelligence as our most valuable resource, there is no limit to what we can achieve and create.

For those of you who still picture robots threatening human existence with artificial intelligence, rest assured we are a long way from a machine take-over. Machines cannot direct tides or control weather and after all, they can be unplugged!


Jennifer Nooyen