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Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence [AI] is broadly used to define computers doing tasks that require human intelligence. If we consider the range of human tasks, we recognize that some computing tasks, which we think require high levels of human intelligence - such as complex arithmetic - computers can do very easily.

Converely, tasks that people do without even thinking - such as recognising a face - are extremely complex to automate.

AI is most often employed to perform these difficult tasks, which appear to require complex and sophisticated reasoning processes and knowledge.


Uses For Artificial Intelligence

There are distinct uses for AI:

  • Academic - studying human reasoning to develop techniques for solving difficult problems, such as expert systems.
  • Computational - to perform complex tasks in much shorter time that human
  • Business - to replicate expert knowledge, thereby capturing valuable corporate assets

Artificial intelligence is based on the assumption that human intelligence can be reduced to complex manipulation of symbols, and that the medium used to manipulate these symbols, human or artificial does not matter. There is some philosophical debate around AI, some arguing that true intelligence can never be achieved by a computer, that the functioning and logic of the human brain cannot be simulated.

Collectively, the various viewpoints on AI can be summarized as:

  • Computers will never even appear to be really intelligent, though they might do a few useful tasks that conventionally require intelligence.
  • Computers may eventually appear to be intelligent, but in fact they will just be simulating intelligent behaviour, and not really be intelligent.
  • Computers will eventually be really intelligent.
  • Computers will not only be intelligent, they'll be concious and have emotions.

Fortunately, none of these viewpoints have impacted the ongoing development and use of AI. AI techniques are being used to produce useful programs that conventionally require human intelligence. Such computers, whilst behaving 'intelligently' in performing certain limited tasks, do not yet possess full intelligence. Full AI is still a long way into the future, but in the interim, we are gaining understanding of of our own intelligence.

NEXT: How Artificial Intelligence Works


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