Artificial Intelligence has been in the news a lot lately and will only get more popular as it gets more capable. Even between scientists and futurists, some like Ray Kurzweil think it will usher in a utopia, whiles others like Elon Musk, think we’re “summoning the demon.” What is clearly obvious is that AI is already changing our world.
A Quick History of Artificial Intelligence
Although the idea of machines has been around thousands of years, the modern term “AI” is fairly recent. It was coined in 1956 at a conference in Dartmouth College, in New Hampshire.
After initial excitement and some progress, everything came to a standstill between 1974 and 1980 – a time that became known as the “AI winter.” Then in the ’80’s the British and Japanese governments funded some projects, then from 1987 to 1993, progress and funding stalled once again.
Excitement and therefore funding, came back in 1997 when IBM’s Deep Blue beat chess Grandmaster Gary. Then in 2011, IBM’s Watson beat the reigning Jeopardy! champions Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings.
Modern Artificial Intelligence
If asked to define AI, you’d get a lot of different answers – from Siri to the voice in “Her.” There are also a lot of different terms like, Language Processing, Neural Networks and Deep Learning. Let’s set those aside for now and go general and say AI is a program that appears to think like a human. To understand where we are now with AI, let’s define 3 levels: Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI), Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) and Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI).
Artificial Narrow Intelligence
All the AI we see around us is ANI (also known as Weak AI). It’s programmed to perform a single function and do it every well. From our simple desktop calculator to Siri and Alexa. It’s all narrow. It can’t do more than the one thing it was programmed to it. You can ask Alexa for information or to play a song, but it can’t also compose a symphony, because that’s not what it was programmed to do.
ANI may at times appear to be sophisticated and thinking for itself, but it’s not conscience or self-aware, it’s just following a program. It doesn’t get creative or stray from it’s programmed purpose because it can’t (pretty weak, I know). For example, Siri is a complicated program that is able to process our language and then search the internet for the answer. It’s not thinking anything.
Narrow AI is a powerful force and is reshaping our world. It will continue to do so as these AIs get more sophisticated and work together to process more data. Their ability to process language, translate it, sort and categorize images and even determine what humans want and give them valuable information will continue to improve and provide services and convenience to humans.
Artificial General Intelligence
The kind of AI we’re used to seeing in movies is Artificial General Intelligence or AGI (also known as “Strong AI.”) It can not only process our language, but understand it’s meaning, context and subtleties. It can perform any task a human can, is sentient, conscious and self-aware. No machine currently has this ability – the ability to remember, integrate prior knowledge, and be creative and strategic to engage in long-term planning, coordination and problem solving to come up with new solutions. Scientists don’t have a consensus as to when we’ll have AGI and estimates range from 5-10 years, to 50 years to never.
Artificial super Intelligence
A computer that is smarter than every human, and possibly all humans now alive. Oxford professor Nick Bostrum defined it as, “an intellect that is much smarter than the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom and social skills.”