I was stuck trying to figure out why the fuss about all those futuristic videos and people talking about intelligent machines or machines taking over humans. How scary is AI? Is it really the biggest challenge that we need to worry about today? But wait, what exactly is AI? How does it work? Why does it scare the living daylights of even the most tech-savy folks. Is humanity doomed?
Disclaimer: A lot of the content has been borrowed and re-phrased form talks and articles written by Tim Urban, Pedro Domingas and Chamath Palihapatiya.
Here I’m trying to construct what AI means and what power it holds, for the good or bad. What it might have in store for the future of humanity?
What is Artificial Intelligence(AI)?
In simple words, artificial intelligence is nothing but a software designed to make intelligent decisions or accurate predictions in some problem domain.
AI is ubiquitous today, generally considered as the source that connects a real world to a virtual world. Beyond all the fear mongering applications of AI in the future, the simple truth is that the code or core technique behind AI hasn’t changed for decades. There have been no fundamental breakthroughs yet the only thing that has changed or rather evolved is the computational power of devices which helps in processing data faster. There are buzzwords going around and it is true there are some risks involved with AI in the future(which we will explore later) but the current scenario is all about fine-tuned flavours of techniques developed half a century ago or more.
Why is it called AI?
Animals, a super-set that includes human beings, have a natural disposition to solve problems, which we attribute to intelligence. This involves taking inputs from natural sensors and using our brain to compute the probability of a potential output and take an action. This is exactly what Artificial intelligence is made to emulate. AI is the ability of a machine or a computer program to think and learn. The concept of AI is based on the idea of building machines capable of thinking, acting, and learning like humans.
Artificial Intelligence can be categorized into three sections.
1. Artificial Narrow Intelligence(ANI)
ANI is what we see all around us today — in Amazon, Spotify, Facebook, Go use cases — all of which involve carrying out specific tasks without being explicitly programmed how to do so. In other words, ANI is given a set of inputs and asked to compute different probable solutions under given constraints to obtain most efficient outputs. ANI is better than humans at one particular thing in a specific domain.
As more data sets and real-time data streams become available, and algorithms are fine-tuned to process this data, we are bound to see numerous new applications in a variety of fields over the next few years. Self-driving cars, smart -assistant phones, internet search algorithms, ticket price analysis, personalized advertisements, games and even in sectors like Military, Manufacturing, Medicine and Finance. Eg: Helping radiologists detect potential tumors on X-rays, responding to simple customer-service queries through chatbots, booking hotels at a given time and location for the most efficient price.
2. Artificial General Intelligence(AGI)
AGI indicates artificial intelligence across the board and smart across diverse regions or in other words, AGI would be capable of understanding the world as we humans do, have the same capacity to learn how to perform a wide range of tasks. This involves reasoning and learning from experience as humans do at an intellectual level and that includes social skills, creativity, wisdom, science, engineering, literature. Not there yet but it may evolve with time.
In theory, an artificial general intelligence could carry out any task a human could, and likely many that a human couldn’t. An AGI would be able to combine human-like flexible thinking and reasoning with computational advantages, such as near-instant recall and split-second number crunching. While you can’t ask a dating or career advice to ANI,it would be fathomable to ask an AGI, one day. Maybe.
We’ll talk about how we can get from ANI to AGI in article 3.
3. Artificial Super Intelligence
ASI can surpass human intelligence and everything that humans can do as well as everything that computers can currently do. It can think about abstractions which are IMPOSSIBLE for humans to think. The human brain is made of neurons and is thereby constrained to some billion neurons. Maybe an AGI can build an ASI. If you’re waiting for me to give you examples of what an ASI can do, I’m sorry I, and even Einstein, will not be able to comprehend the possibilities, except narrating doomsday scenarios or an utopian world. More on that coming soon.