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Understanding the Basics of AI

Lisa Peternel technology header 11

Artificial Intelligence – or AI – is one of those concepts that has spawned entire genres of film and book, and is sometimes whispered as either the cause of nightmares or the cause of a human utopia. The reality is that AI has been with us as a concept since at least the 1950s, when the first computers were making an impact in exclusive domains.

What Is AI?

In broad terms, AI can be divided into two areas: narrow AI and General AI. There have been huge developments in the field of narrow AI in recent years due to advances in machine learning, the accessibility of information on the web, and the speed of both CPUs and GPUs.

What Is Narrow AI?

Narrow AI is what most of us are familiar with. Narrow AI is a type of machine intelligence that does a specific task and can learn that specific task really well. For example, the AI that recently defeated the world Go champion. This is important because it was long thought that Go is such an abstract game with such high level concepts that a machine would struggle to match a human player.

Narrow AI can also be found in applications like SIRI, or whenever you go onto a site like Amazon and get product recommendations based on certain genre patterns and personality types.

What Is General AI?

We might not be familiar with Narrow AI even though we access it most days on the web, but General AI is a concept that most people will be familiar with. General AI is a general machine intelligence that closely mimics the capabilities of the human brain. In this sense, it can learn, reason, create, analyze, and make decisions. When thinking of General AI, super-intelligence like HAL in the Space Odyssey movies is a key example.

Of course, we haven’t actually developed General AI yet, even though there are ongoing attempts to do so. Both futurists and scientists often disagree about when we might have General AI, or even if we ever will have it. In the most optimistic visions of the future, a super-intelligence will develop at some point in the future that will be far superior to any human intelligence. This, of course, could also be a nightmare.


AI is here to stay even if we don’t develop General AI. At the very least, Narrow AI has many applications and is being used around the world.

from Lisa Peternel | Technology


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