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What Is Artificial Intelligence?

By Lee Prangnell
Updated May 16, 2024
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Artificial intelligence, also known as AI, is a sub-discipline within the field of computer science. The primary goal of this vast domain is to create intelligent agents — that is, to create software, or a combination or software and hardware, capable of observing and analyzing the environment in which it is present. Computer scientists have categorized artificial intelligence into two general areas: strong AI and weak AI. Strong AI refers to computational intelligence that matches or exceeds human intelligence in a specific area. Weak AI refers to computational intelligence that is not designed to match the intelligence of a human being for any given task.

The primary concept in artificial intelligence is the "intelligent agent" — a computational device, either hardware or software or a combination of both, designed to perform a specific task that might be very simple or very complex in nature. Regardless of the designated task's complexity, the underlying functions of the intelligent agent are governed by mathematics and physics, much the same as in all other areas of computer science. A hardware-based intelligent agent might be a robotic device, with central processing hardware and sensors, that is designed to replicate the behavior of an ant, for example. A software-based agent might be a software application designed to interpret natural human language and then perform an action. Intelligent agents might be developed for strong AI or weak AI applications; there is vast scope and utility, and a number of different practical applications for both strong AI and weak AI.

Artificial intelligence is a very complex topic, and there are many subject areas within the field. One of the main objectives within the field of artificial intelligence is to create machine intelligence that matches or exceeds that of the human mind. Replicating human subjective consciousness is an objective that many philosophers and computer scientists believe is impossible to achieve, primarily because human consciousness is such a contentious area, in which there are very few absolutes. However, computer scientists and artificial intelligence researchers are endeavoring to replicate the workings of the human brain — which is assumed, by many, to be the source of human consciousness — by utilizing supercomputer technologies, which are able to perform trillions of mathematical calculations per second.

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Discussion Comments
By burcinc — On Nov 22, 2014

I find artificial intelligence kind of scary. I realize that it can be very practical and useful for some things. But I actually feel that artificial intelligence that is developed too far may actually be dangerous to humanity. I don't like the idea of a machine being smarter and more capable than a human.

By bluedolphin — On Nov 21, 2014

@SteamLouis-- But artificial intelligence is a part of everyday life. Everything from computer games, to financial analysis software to voice-recognition security systems are types of artificial intelligence. They are forms of weak AI but are artificial intelligence nonetheless.

When people think of AI, robots are the first things to come to mind. And there are huge advancements in this area as well. You may not be familiar with them but there are numerous robots on the market that are very popular. Some act like personal assistants and respond to voice command for various tasks. Others are in the form of house appliances or small gadgets and all serve some sort of use for every day living.

By SteamLouis — On Nov 21, 2014

Artificial intelligence doesn't appear to be advancing as quickly as many of us expected. I remember that in the beginning of the 21st century, there was so much speculation about how artificial intelligence, like robots, would become a regular part of our life in this century. Fifteen years down the line, nothing of the sort has happened. Scientists talk about the same thing, but now they're talking about 2050 and beyond. I personally don't think that robots will be a part of regular life even in 2050. Artificial intelligence is not easy to build and use and it's extremely expensive.

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