Artificial intelligence (AI) has become an increasingly prominent issue in recent years, as the advances in this area have sparked a public debate regarding the future of the technology. AI has been a subject of interest for futurists, science-fiction writers, and general prognosticators for several decades, but what exactly is meant by the term AI?
Artificial Intelligence explained
Essentially, AI is a range of technologies and technical approaches which attempt to create intelligent machines, and prompt intelligent responses from these machines. To some extent, AI is intended to produce machine learning and behaviour which mimics that of human beings, although in many areas this is yet to be remotely feasible, and in others, machines can already significantly outperform human beings.
Computer scientists Marvin Minsky and John McCarthy are considered pioneering researchers in the AI field, and they defined artificial intelligence as any task which, when performed by a human being, would require intelligence in order to accomplish it.
With this in mind, AI programmers have recently focused on such techniques as teaching machines speech recognition, planning, problem solving, and general learning. AI differs from other forms of computer programming in that its aim is to ensure that the functioning of a machine improves over time, without any form of direct human intervention.
Debates on the AI topic
This has led to some intriguing developments in the field of games, with AI-driven technology produced by Google being able to master traditionally challenging board games, such as chess and Go. While computers already played these games, particularly chess, extremely well, these new AI solutions are able to massively refine their play over a period of time, and create the illusion of intuition, rather than relying solely on billions of calculations.
The rapid progress in AI also has implications for a wide variety of industrial fields. As AI becomes increasingly sophisticated, it is becoming inevitable that the technology will supersede humans in some incredibly complicated tasks. AI systems are already beginning to be utillized in the healthcare field, and this is expected to expand further still in the coming years.
As the massive potential and implications of AI become apparent, there has been a somewhat natural opposition to the technology in some quarters. After all, human beings have been unchallenged intellectually for thousands of years. In particular, there is an ongoing discussion about the potential of AI to vastly exceed human capabilities, and the ethical and logistical considerations that this would create.
However, it is very much envisaged that AI will work alongside human beings, rather than necessarily replacing them. There is little appetite for AI to work in an unsupervised or elevated capacity. The vision of those working with this tech is that it will be a companion for human endeavour that enhances the way that many vital working environments operate.
It certainly seems that AI is here to stay, and that those who predicted that computer thinking and intelligence would change the world we live in, were not wrong at all.