Artificial intelligence (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.
AI can be categorized as either weak or strong. Weak AI, also known as narrow AI, is an AI system that is designed and trained for a particular task. Virtual personal assistants, such as Apple’s Siri, are a form of weak AI. Strong AI, also known as artificial general intelligence, is an AI system with generalized human cognitive abilities. When presented with an unfamiliar task, a strong AI system is able to find a solution without human intervention.
Because hardware, software and staffing costs for AI can be expensive, many vendors are including AI components in their standard offerings, as well as access to Artificial Intelligence as a Service (AIaaS) platforms. AI as a Service allows individuals and companies to experiment with AI for various business purposes and sample multiple platforms before making a commitment. Popular AI cloud offerings include Amazon AI services, IBM Watson Assistant, Microsoft Cognitive Services and Google AI services.
While AI tools present a range of new functionality for businesses, the use of artificial intelligence raises ethical questions. This is because deep learning algorithms, which underpin many of the most advanced AI tools, are only as smart as the data they are given in training. Because a human selects what data should be used for training an AI program, the potential for human bias is inherent and must be monitored closely.
Some industry experts believe that the term artificial intelligence is too closely linked to popular culture, causing the general public to have unrealistic fears about artificial intelligence and improbable expectations about how it will change the workplace and life in general. Researchers and marketers hope the label augmented intelligence, which has a more neutral connotation, will help people understand that AI will simply improve products and services, not replace the humans that use them.
Types of artificial intelligence
Arend Hintze, an assistant professor of integrative biology and computer science and engineering at Michigan State University, categorizes AI into four types, from the kind of AI systems that exist today to sentient systems, which do not yet exist. His categories are as follows:
- Type 1: Reactive machines. An example is Deep Blue, the IBM chess program that beat Garry Kasparov in the 1990s. Deep Blue can identify pieces on the chessboard and make predictions, but it has no memory and cannot use past experiences to inform future ones. It analyzes possible moves — it’s own and it’s opponent — and chooses the most strategic move. Deep Blue and Google’s AlphaGO were designed for narrow purposes and cannot easily be applied to another situation.
- Type 2: Limited memory. These AI systems can use past experiences to inform future decisions. Some of the decision-making functions in self-driving cars are designed this way. Observations inform actions happening in the not-so-distant future, such as a car changing lanes. These observations are not stored permanently.
- Type 3: Theory of mind. This psychology term refers to the understanding that others have their own beliefs, desires, and intentions that impact the decisions they make. This kind of AI does not yet exist.
- Type 4: Self-awareness. In this 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 type of AI does not yet exist.
Regulation of AI technology
Despite these potential risks, there are few regulations governing the use of AI tools, and where laws do exist, they typically pertain to AI only indirectly. For example, federal Fair Lending regulations require financial institutions to explain credit decisions to potential customers, which limit the extent to which lenders can use deep learning algorithms, which by their nature are typically opaque. Europe’s GDPR puts strict limits on how enterprises can use consumer data, which impedes the training and functionality of many consumer-facing AI applications.