I've been given the challenge of writing about Artificial Intelligence in five minutes. So I designed a robot to do it for me. Here’s what it came out with:
What is Artificial Intelligence?
Computers are excellent at things that us humans have only discovered relatively recently in our history, such as numbers, calculation and Netflix. However, we have traditionally always been better at areas that have taken millions of years of evolution, such as identifying images (two pictures of the same plant will look completely different to a computer if taken from a slightly different angle), understanding natural language, fine motor control and just learning and adapting to changes in the world around us.
However, computer science is getting better and better at mimicking the way the mind works and suddenly the gap between the ability of computers and the abilities of humans is starting to narrow.
This means that the two, previously disparate, disciplines of Neuroscience and Computing are drawing ever closer together as we develop ever more advanced artificial intelligence.
What are the types of Artificial Intelligence?
The two main types of AI that are mentioned most often are Machine Learning and Deep Learning.
Machine learning Algorithms parse data, learn from that data, and then apply what they’ve learned to make informed decisions. However they need to be shown a lot of ‘right’ answers. For example, for traditional Machine Learning, if you wanted it to recognise a cat, you would need to ‘tell’ it to look for something with whiskers, a nose, pointy ears, a tail etc., while Deep Learning would work all this out for itself.
Deep Learning is a subset of Machine Learning that mimics the working of the human brain by creating an artificial neural network. With Deep Learning, you only feed in the data and then tell the algorithm which outcomes are desirable and which are undesirable. The neural network itself will work out what data is important and how to consider that data to get a desired result.
The key point about Deep Learning is that it is ‘black box’. I.e. we will never know how it really identifies the ‘right’ answer. Deep Learning is more accurate than any other type of Artificial Intelligence, however when the ‘computer says no’ you never know why.
Why is everyone talking about Artificial Intelligence now?
The cost of computing power has plummeted while the speed and power of computers has shot up, making it possible for anyone to start coding and training their own AI bot. The tools have evolved to make it easier for anyone with a knowledge of coding to start in this space (traditionally the preserve of Data Scientists doing PhDs at Universities).
Also, we have huge amounts of data available with which we can train our AI bots.
What industries will be affected by Artificial Intelligence?
Every industry that involves humans will be affected. Workers in warehouses are being replaced by AI, AI can edit photos and create its own films, sell to customers, translate text or dynamically improve computer code. AI will increase productivity, some say at the expense of jobs.
What’s the future of AI?
Currently AI can learn to do a very specific thing very well. This is enough to be incredibly useful and will impact our lives more and more over the coming years, eventually becoming a tool as ubiquitous as the internet.
As AI becomes more advanced, there’s also the possibility that it might make the jump to higher forms of intelligence that will bring it closer to humans. However this is, maybe fortunately, a long way off.