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What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

A frequent guest in the media all around the world, artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. These processes include learning, reasoning, composing, and even self-correction, making AI a multidisciplinary field that involves computer science, psychology, linguistics, philosophy, and many others.

Types of artificial intelligence

Broadly speaking, there are two - three if you’re an avid fan of sentient-AI-triggered apocalypse science fiction - main types of AI: narrow AI and general AI.

Narrow AI, also referred to as weak AI, is designed to perform hyper-detailed, specific tasks, such as spam mail detection, package sorting, or image classification. This is the AI that we see every day - navigation apps on our smartphones, face recognition door accesses, recommendation algorithms... the list goes on and on.

General AI, also known as strong AI, is an AI system with generalized human cognitive abilities. When presented with an unfamiliar task, a strong AI system is capable of finding a solution without human intervention. Generative AIs such as ChatGPT and Midjourney have demonstrated their capabilities in generating text and images based on any prompt you throw at them. These are possibly the most ‘general’ AIs we have seen to date, but there are still a huge array of industries disciplines not yet graced by such breakthroughs.

How artificial intelligence works

Almost all AIs we see today started their journey by ingesting large amounts of data and processing them with sophisticated algorithms. This is the driving force behind modern AI systems - machine learning, a subset of AI that enables machines to learn from data and improve over time without being explicitly programmed.

Machine learning involves building mathematical models based on sample data, or "training data", in order to make better predictions or decisions with little human intervention. These models improve their performance as the quantity and quality of the data they're trained on increases.

As of now, the most powerful and versatile artificial intelligence is powered by deep learning, a subset of machine learning that constructs multi-layered artificial neural networks. These networks are designed to simulate our neural system and are becoming essential for areas that involve petabytes of data or require autonomous decision-making capabilities, such as image and voice recognition, autonomous driving, and generative pre-training transformers (GPTs).

Benefits and challenges

AI has already made some breakthroughs across various sectors. Protein and its folding structures have been a circling mystery for decades, and AI has propelled us a long way forward in just a few years. In finance, AI can help make better fraud detection systems and trading strategies. They even have the potential to revolutionize the manufacturing industry by introducing more efficient supply chain management and surveillance maintenance systems.

However, with greater benefits come greater challenges. AI systems require vast amounts of data to function effectively, raising privacy, copyright, and even security concerns. There's also the risk of AI systems making decisions that humans don't understand or agree with - especially when we are still struggling to comprehend what each layer is doing in the simplest neural networks - leading to issues of transparency and trust.

Moreover, as AI systems become increasingly complex, there is a growing concern about our ability to predict and control their actions. This has led to calls for rigorous testing and oversight of AI systems, as well as the development of robust ethical guidelines.

Closing thoughts

Artificial Intelligence stands as one of the most transformative technologies of our time. It holds the potential to revolutionize numerous sectors and improve our lives globally. However, as we continue to develop and deploy AI systems, it's crucial that we remain cognizant of the ethical implications and potential challenges that come with this powerful technology.

As we look to the future, the continuous exploration of AI promises exciting advancements. But it also necessitates ongoing conversations about how we can ensure these technologies are used in a way that aligns with our societal values and benefits all of humanity.

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