In the last few years, there has been a lot of buzz about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the fear that machines will replace humans. According to research by Pegasystems.Inc companies with 6,000 customers in six countries revealed that approximately 72% of their customers are somewhat confused about the role of artificial intelligence. This leads to a false fear that prevents them from fully accepting AI-based technologies. What was surprising is that these customers were already exposed to AI - using AI-powered technology without realizing it. In this post, I will demystify AI so you can understand and get comfortable with it's usage.
Artificial intelligence (AI) may have been a topic of conversation among science fiction enthusiasts 40 years ago, but fast-forward now, and it is our reality. AI has already had a profound impact on our everyday life and there have been extraordinary advances in our society with AI technologies. To name a few examples, unlocking our smartphones with our faces, streaming music videos from YouTube or movies from Netflix to give us recommendations for other similar programs we are interested in watching are all AI-powered. And, we shouldn’t forget our digital personal assistant such as Apple's “SIRI” (Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface) who is available for us 24/7, 365 days, isn't that a blessing?
We are surrounded by this new era of intelligence technology and having a proper understanding of it is very crucial to thriving in the future. Let’s dive into demystifying AI.
What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
In basic terms, AI can be defined as a branch of computer science where machines learn to imitate humans - like levels of intelligence such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making process rather than turning into humans. If machines can exhibit the above tasks we can refer to it as having artificial intelligence.
There are two types of AI: Narrow (Weak AI) and Strong AI
Narrow ( or Weak) AI is a solution designed and trained for a specific task. Most of the AI that we experience today is considered to be Narrow AI and they are programmed to perform a single task with a predetermined range. For example, Google Assistant, Apple’s assistant Siri, Google translate, Chatbot, an automated recommendation for e-commerce business developed by Amazon, Google, Facebook, and many more are all considered as Narrow AI. It is powerful and focuses on driving efficiency at work and in our daily lives.
Whereas Strong AI more closely resembles human intelligence and would be able to successfully function without human intervention when complicated tasks are presented. In other words, machines are capable of performing any intellectual tasks that human beings can. However, strong AI currently does not exist. We will see why?
Machines are great at repetition, speed, object recognition, predictions within milliseconds by scanning through large amounts of data which is slightly impossible for us humans to carry out in a short period. Whereas we humans have great strengths in strategizing, creativity, dexterity, judging, social and leadership skills where machines are incapable. So, such a high level of cognitive performance can only be exhibited by humans and if machines can surpass human intelligence at this level, it is called Artificial Superintelligence (ASI) “ a software-based system with intellectual powers beyond those of human brains in practically every field”. Then, it might lead to human extinction. Currently, this does not exist and we only get to see it in the hollywood sci-fiction movies.
In conclusion, we are many many more years away from ASI and experts predicted it could be in the second half of this century. For now, machines will not replace humans, instead human augmentation ( machines helping humans) will lead to new, fast and smart ways of working. Humans still have the power to control what machines should do and not the other way around. So, the full promise of AI depends on collaborative intelligence from both humans and machines combined ability to build innovative products and services for customers.