What is Artificial Intelligence and Why is it Important?

A hand holding an AI button, symbolizing the power of artificial intelligence
UPDATED February 3, 2023
Written By Milliscent Lucio

Have you ever seen visions of the future from before the recent explosion in technology? Strange skyscrapers, chrome gadgets, hovercrafts, and a large population of sentient robots dot the landscape.

The latter, in particular, stars a lot in popular media, as a protagonist, antagonist, companion, or means for achieving something grand. Humans have always been fascinated by the notion that machines could perfectly mimic human behavior or develop consciousness. What gives this sense of awareness is artificial intelligence.

AI has become a widespread term to the point that it could be used as a throwaway explanation without the need to ask for more details. However, there is so much more to it. Let’s pull back the curtain and discuss it more, shall we?

What is Artificial Intelligence?

John McCarthy, one of its founding fathers, gave the definition of artificial intelligence as the science and engineering of making intelligent machines. To elaborate, it is the theory and development of a computer or robot's ability to perform tasks normally performed by humans due to the required human intelligence and discernment.

A machine with artificial intelligence can easily figure out how to reach a goal and make decisions to get there. They can perform much more complex tasks without being constantly controlled or supervised by a human. They collect a large amount of data, analyze it, and use the results to make decisions.

How is AI Used Today?

Artificial intelligence is a prominent existence in everyday life. While the AI that we have today is not like the dream AI companion of literally everyone—Tony Stark’s AI-powered butler—Jarvis, you can find it practically everywhere, being utilized across a wide variety of devices with a wide range of functions.

It opens up a lot of options and opportunities for solving real-world problems beyond convenience. An important one is its capability of working in conditions that are not human-friendly. Another is reducing the strain on the human body and eliminating human error in occupations that require strenuous effort or consistent precision.

Common examples of artificial intelligence are computer-generated players in video games, artificial intelligence in streaming service personalization, software in self-driving cars, and systems used by certain machines in the manufacturing industry.

In order to carry out these different functions, not all AI is built the same. Let’s have a look at the different types.

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Types of Artificial Intelligence

Reactive Machine AI

Reactive machine AI is the most basic type of artificial intelligence. Its operating capacity is limited to its current algorithms and how it processes what data it currently has. It does not store new data or new experiences.

They are made for a specific task and cannot deviate from it. It examines the current situation and reacts in accordance with what it perceives to be the best course of action.

Limited Memory AI

A “limited memory AI” is a type of artificial intelligence that collects previous data or new observations and uses these to refine its decision-making process towards a future action. However, the information that was gathered is only accessible for a short period of time, hence the "limited" in its name.

Theory of Mind AI

The theory of mind AI is similar to limited memory AI but far more advanced in terms of its adaptability and memory length. On paper, it’s supposed to be able to identify and understand emotions, social interaction, and other abstract human concepts.

It still remains a concept, even with the resources available today. But should it be built, this AI would be able to understand the complexities of the mind and conduct meaningful interaction with humans.

Self-Aware AI

If you’ve watched or read any science fiction involving robots and AI, you would know about this. The Self-aware type is basically an AI machine that is fully sentient and aware of its existence.

This type of AI also remains a concept and poses a bigger challenge than the Theory of Mind. While experts believe that artificial intelligence attaining full consciousness is impossible, it does not mean that these experts won’t be taking their research and experiments to new heights in order to achieve something close to it.

Conclusion

The role of artificial intelligence in future technology is significant, allowing us to further push the limits of human creativity and ingenuity. What we should pay attention to is not whether artificial intelligence will replace humans and take over the world, but rather the ethics of using said technology without violating any human rights.

It’s not a glowing orb or something alien-made; AI is only made up of lines upon lines of code, used to provide efficiency in our daily lives. As amazing as it looks today, it still has a lot of limitations. But that’s part of the fun. Who knows what the brightest minds of our generation will come up with next?

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