What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)? A Brief Explanation.

Artificial Intelligence mimics the human mind. Let’s learn more about AI.

Artificial intelligence seeks to endow machines with human-like cognitive abilities. But the endgame isn't to mimic the human brain: it's to complement it.

A basic understanding of AI is that it is the intelligence of machines: a human attribute transposed to computers. Etymologically, intelligence is the ability to connect separate elements: this "link-making" allows us to make sense of new situations and to adapt and learn from them. Machines, too, make connections from which they draw the ability to adapt and learn.

Artificial intelligence is therefore defined in its relationship with our "natural" intelligence. The Cambridge Dictionary writes that AI is the "study of how to produce machines that have some of the qualities that the human mind has, such as the ability to understand language, recognize pictures, solve problems, and learn." Technologies such as machine learning and deep learning strive to develop these qualities.


A computer is not a brain


But this definition-by-comparison does not imply that AI will, nor should, resemble our general intelligence. The human brain does not work like a computer. Our cognition is inseparable from our creative, sensorial and emotional intelligence; they all constantly inform each other. Machines, on the other hand, can be designed for absolute efficiency. They are much better at processing large amounts of data, so they beat us at chess and drive better than we do. But according to Facebook's head of AI, Yann LeCun, speaking to The Verge, "these are very narrow intelligences [...]. In terms of general intelligence we're not even close to a rat."


Artificial intelligence is another species


Of course AI, after clearing the stages of Artificial Narrow Intelligence (that of cars and chess champions) and Artificial General Intelligence (when machines can perform all human cognitive tasks), will probably reach Artificial Super Intelligence. That’s when they’ll surpass us and achieve consciousness.

But it is far into the future, and it doesn't make artificial and natural intelligences any less intrinsically different. In a What's Now conference, Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired magazine, explains that our way of thinking is so specific that it is its own "species" of intelligence. Working on AI thus means creating a wealth of different species to complement our own: high-level human-robot collaboration, if you will.

 

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