What is AI?

What do Instant Messaging, Flat-Screen TVs, Credit Cards, and Artificial Intelligence All Have in Common?

Answer: They were all once foreign, imagined concepts in old sci-fi films!

It’s hard to imagine life without the first three in the list, but Artificial Intelligence is still shrouded in uncertainty. Simply put, AI is a computer system capable of performing tasks humans need intelligence to do.

AI has endless real-world applications – it could be your phone recognising a face and suggesting you tag Billy in a photo from the weekend, a driverless car deciding when to accelerate or turn based on synthesised information, or a business management platform for consumer trends and predictive analytics.

What probably came to mind when you heard Artificial intelligence is General AI, where a system can perform any task of a human, dynamically learning and communicating. The realisation of general artificial intelligence is far from the near future and most experts believe that the first prototypes are decades away.

On the other hand, the process that awarded AI as the top of Garter’s Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2018 is Narrow AI, where a computer system is programmed to focus on and learn a specific task (e.g. dictating spoken words or analysing dense legal documents) using processes such as machine learning, predictive modelling, and data science.

The majority of technologies in Narrow AI, however, are not recent. Only in the last decade or so have we seen an explosive growth in the application of machine learning and AI. The exponential growth in computational power, paralleled with major advances in data acquisition and generation, has lead to technology catching up to academic theory, driving the practicality of AI applications.