What is AI? Is it your dishwasher?

Tell the next 10 people you meet that siri/alexa is AI. Chances are you’ll get push back from at least a couple. “Tut, that’s not real AI” they’ll say. There has been so much hype about AI recently so what exactly is it? Why is it divisive? Will AI will steal all our jobs? Will Skynet kill us all? What we are calling AI today are high performing robots, and we’ve had them in our homes for years…so is your dishwasher a form of AI?

Lets run through why people think we are living with AI. Science fiction has told us that artificial intelligence looks or sounds like a human. That is not necessarily the case. The simple definition of AI is:

“Intelligence exhibited by machines”.

So what’s intelligence? This is where the confusion around AI really deepens. The ability to answer any question and learn over time is known as Artificial General Intelligence (AGI).

“AGI is the intelligence of a machine that could successfully perform any intellectual task that a human being can.”

AGI is the end goal of a lot of research around AI and great gains are being made. This is also the point beyond which it is hard to predict what will happen given the planet will never have seen intelligence of this magnitude and breadth before. Leading thinkers like Sam Harris are encouraging us to think about our design decisions and awareness of the problems that might arise at this point.

The raft of tools that are at our disposal today, Alexa, Siri, chatbots. These are often called AI because they deliver an interface that you can engage with using a conversation. The AI behind these is really lead by pattern matching and using inputs to match to the right output, much like running a program. These types of system are able to deliver to very specific use cases but unable to learn on their own, however, are upgraded as their operators see fit.

If we agree that intelligence is the ability to perform complicated tasks better than a human then we can agree that robotic arms on a production line are a form of AI and if we can agree that then we can agree our dishwasher is AI.

No. At one point basic programs may have been considered AI, however, as the field advances, more and more technologies are declassified as being AI. For example OCR (optical character recognition), the ability for a machine to recognise letters is no longer classified as AI as it is such a well solved function. Other specific tasks like understanding speech, mastering complex games or recognising obstacles are currently classified as AI but once well solved, will become components that all make up the building blocks of ever more complex AI, until we reach AGI and the system can build itself.

In summary, of course your dishwasher is not AI, however, AI is confusing because it’s a constant and ever shifting definition across multiple applications. Where could it help you? How are you going to harness the potential it could bring?

Here at Lola Tech we have had great success in process automation and increased customer experience. The first step is a conversation, we’re very open to sharing our experience and helping you explore the benefits this field can bring you. Feel free to get in touch at charles@lola.tech 

About the Author

Charles Cadbury is CCO at Lola Tech, helping shape the commercial strategy and positioning to bring new products and services to market. Lola is a company on a mission: to bring awesome software to the global travel industry through unconventional brilliance. The company excels in building and improving travel systems to increase uptime and conversion. Birthplace of Dazzle, a voice activated personal assistant for the hotel industry. www.lola.tech

Twitter: @Tech_Lola and @Dazzle_ai

LinkedIn: Lola Tech

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bestoflola/

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