Artificial Intelligence: a brief introduction

Source: Deep Learning on Medium

Artificial intelligence is a scientific area which is constantly developing the last decades. It is usually connected to robots and in general describes machine capabilities that we expect would require human intelligence. Here are the basic things someone needs to know about artificial intelligence.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence, also referred as AI, is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. These processes include learning (the acquisition of information and rules for using the information), reasoning (using rules to reach approximate or definite conclusions) and self-correction. Particular applications of AI include expert systems, speech recognition and machine vision. Artificial intelligence can be categorized as weak or strong.

Weak artificial intelligence(weak AI), also known as narrow AI, is artificial intelligence that is focused on one narrow task. Siri is a good example of narrow intelligence. Siri operates within a limited pre-defined range of functions. There is no genuine intelligence or no self-awareness despite being a sophisticated example of weak AI. Strong artificial intelligence(strong AI), or True AI, may refer to artificial general intelligence, computational theory of mind, that is giving computer programs the philosophical position that human minds have, and artificial consciousness,giving machines the ability to possess awareness of external objects, ideas and/or self-awareness.

Types of Artificial Intelligence

There are four types of artificial intelligence.

Reactive machines

These are the first circle of artificially intelligent machines that literally go by the term “carpe diem”. Machines and systems based on this type of AI neither have a concept of the past, historic data and inferences from it nor the ability to conceive a future. Such machines work on the present, a scenario or a task that is right in front of them. Deep Blue, IBM’s chess-playing supercomputer, which beat international grand-master Garry Kasparov in the late 1990s, is the perfect example of this type of machine. Deep Blue can identify the pieces on a chess board and know how each moves. It can make predictions about what moves might be next for it and its opponent. And it can choose the most optimal moves from among the possibilities. But it doesn’t have any concept of the past, nor any memory of what has happened before. Apart from a rarely used chess-specific rule against repeating the same move three times, Deep Blue ignores everything before the present moment. All it does is look at the pieces on the chess board as it stands right now, and choose from possible next moves. This type of intelligence involves the computer perceiving the world directly and acting on what it sees. It doesn’t rely on an internal concept of the world.

Limited memory

These AI systems have short lived memory and can use past experiences to inform future decisions. This concept is beautifully incorporated in self-driving cars. They observe other cars’ speed and direction. That can’t be done in a just one moment, but rather requires identifying specific objects and monitoring them over time. These observations are added to the self-driving cars’ preprogrammed representations of the world, which also include lane markings, traffic lights and other important elements, like curves in the road. They’re included when the car decides when to change lanes, to avoid cutting off another driver or being hit by a nearby car.

Theory of mind

This term refers to the understanding that others have their own beliefs, desires and intentions that impact the decisions they make. This is crucial to how we humans formed societies, because they allowed us to have social interactions. Without understanding each other’s motives and intentions, and without taking into account what somebody else knows either about me or the environment, working together is at best difficult, at worst impossible.This kind of AI does not yet exist. But if AI systems are indeed ever to live among us, they’ll have to be able to understand that each of us has thoughts and feelings and expectations for how we’ll be treated. And they’ll have to adjust their behavior accordingly.


In this final category, AI systems have a sense of self, have consciousness. Machines with self-awareness understand their current state and can use the information to infer what others are feeling. This is an extension of the “theory of mind”. Conscious beings are aware of themselves, know about their internal states, and are able to predict feelings of others. Like the previous category, this kind of AI does not exist.

Artificial Intelligence applications

Artificial intelligence is present into a number of areas. Here are some examples.

  • Healthcare. The biggest bets are on improving patient outcomes and reducing costs. Companies are applying machine learning to make better and faster diagnoses than humans. Some of these applications include chatbots, a computer program used online to answer questions and assist customers, to help schedule follow-up appointments or aid patients through the billing process, and virtual health assistants that provide basic medical feedback.
  • Business. Robotic process automation is being applied to highly repetitive tasks normally performed by humans. Machine learning algorithms are being integrated into analytics and CRM( Customer Relationship Management) platforms to uncover information on how to better serve customers. Chatbots have been incorporated into websites to provide immediate service to customers. Automation of job positions has also become a talking point among academics and IT analysts.
  • Education. AI can automate grading, assess students and adapt to their needs, helping them work at their own pace. AI tutors can provide additional support to students, ensuring they stay on track. It could change where and how students learn, perhaps even replacing some teachers.
  • Law. The discovery process, sifting through of documents, in law is often overwhelming for humans. Automating this process is a more efficient use of time. Startups are also building question-and-answer computer assistants that can sift programmed-to-answer questions by examining the taxonomy and ontology associated with a database.
  • Manufacturing. This is an area that has been at the forefront of incorporating robots into the workflow. Industrial robots used to perform single tasks and were separated from human workers, but as the technology advanced that changed.

“Is artificial intelligence less than our intelligence?” — Spike Jonze