Simplifying Artificial Intelligence

Original article was published by Jash Rathod on Artificial Intelligence on Medium


Simplifying Artificial Intelligence

Photo by Katarzyna Pe on Unsplash

Everywhere around us we find people talking about Artificial Intelligence (AI). Most of them who are new to this field think of movies like “The Terminator” or “The Incredibles”; the idea that develops is those AI-powered robots will harm humans and destroy the Earth. If AI was indeed like how it is shown in the movies, why the tech giants like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and the myriad number of startups would be interested in working and commercializing this technology? As fascinating as these science-fiction movies are, they portray a not-so-accurate picture of what AI actually is. (Heads-up: Neural Network is an Artificial Intelligence method)

What people think AI is vs What AI actually is (Link — hg366coymrd31.jpg)

Before we get into understanding AI, let us first look at why AI has gained this hype after all. You might be wondering, “What is so great about AI?” Well, to answer this, let us understand how any computing device like our personal computers, laptops, and smartphones work. Our computers can only understand “True” and “False”, 1 or 0, i.e., Binary. It is fascinating that a combination of these 0s and 1s is how literally anything on a computer operates! When we perform any task on a computer, say press the ‘M’ key on the keyboard, it gets magically converted to a very specific combination of 0s and 1s inside the computer that enables it to understand that the user wishes to display ‘M’ on the screen. This is the work of magicians we call “Computer Programmers.”

Have you ever noticed that every time you press the ‘M’ key, only ‘M’ is displayed and not any other letter? This is precisely how a computer functions. Computers only do what they are instructed to do. They are dumb machines that on their own cannot think and perform any task, unless told to do so. They lack cognitive abilities. Thus, any task that a computer can traditionally perform might seem like magic but is rather an implementation of a complex series of steps greater than its own cerebral capabilities. To state explicitly, “MACHINES LACK INTELLIGENCE.”

By now another interesting question that might have crossed your mind is “Why is AI so praised and awed at?”. AI is the intelligence demonstrated by the machine; a machine that lacks its own intellect. Thus the termARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE”.

Artificial Intelligence or as many people like to call it Machine Intelligence, makes it possible for machines to learn from experiences and perform tasks in a way humans would do it, or maybe perform better than humans. One might wonder, “How does the computer actually learn?” The answer is simple — just like a human child. A child encounters a situation, takes action, and could either achieve the desired result or not. Either way, it learns what to do or maybe what not to do. The next time it encounters the same situation, its previous experiences help the child to opt for a much more calculated and refined decision. Precisely this is how even we adults learn. The same strategy is adopted for machines too. To accomplish this, mathematics and statistics come to our rescue.

The term “Artificial Intelligence” was coined in the 1950s but it has started to gain attention recently. This is primarily due to the lack of resources like computer processing power. The problems that AI can solve required tremendous resources, which was deemed impractical at that time and just remained as a field of study for researchers. Clearly, it was way ahead of its time. With the advancements in technology today, it has found its applications in most of the fields and is revolutionizing almost every sector.

Some of its applications are:

  1. Voice assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon Alexa.
  2. Self-driving cars (Waymo — Google’s Self Driving Car Project)
  3. Forecasting (stock price prediction, weather forecasting, etc.)
  4. Movie and song recommendation (This is the precise reason why Netflix and Spotify are so popular — a good Recommendation System.)

… the list is endless. And to be honest, this is only the beginning of an AI revolution. AI today is far from becoming the AI that is portrayed in “The Terminator” and there is a very thin possibility that something like this might actually happen. In the various applications (eg. medical research, cyber-security), it has enabled us to gain insights that we humans were not aware of. It helps to enable businesses to operate more efficiently. It has given us a personalized touch and ease with the help of voice assistants, movie recommendations, auto-complete, etc.

AI is one of the most profound things we are working on as humanity. It’s more profound than fire or electricity.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet Inc.

The early inventions such as fire or electricity have changed the world. There is no going back. Today’s technology leaders and gurus believe that AI will have an impact greater than that the invention of fire and electricity had — “THE AI AGE.” AI is a vessel that is off the shore with time still left to get on it, traveling to a far land, where its impact will change things fundamentally.

AI differs from human intelligence in a number of ways and, ironically, both are quite similar in many ways. So how do we understand the relation between the two? Well, I believe Yann LeCun answers this question beautifully as –

Our intelligence is what makes us humans, and AI is an extension of that quality.”

Yann LeCun, VP and Chief AI Scientist at Facebook

Thank you for reading!

I hope that you found something useful here. If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave your feedback below or you can always reach me on LinkedIn or Twitter. Till then, see you in the next post!