For much of the 20th century, artificial intelligence and machine learning always seemed from the realm of science fiction, something for the far off future along with flying cars and commercial space travel.
As we move further into the 21st century however, artificial intelligence has already become part of our day-to-day lives, in our homes, workplaces and public spaces. From the recommended content on your social media feeds to rare disease diagnosis in hospitals around the world, we are gradually building our world around machine learning.
So why is artificial so important in tech development, and why are data scientists and engineers so excited about its evolution? In this article, we hope to answer some of those questions and more about the immense potential that AI has to improve our standards of life, the way we work and our development as a species.
What is artificial intelligence?
The concept of machine learning and AI isn’t new, but it is enjoying a major boom as we gradually incorporate it more and more into our lives.
But just exactly what is artificial intelligence?
Artificial intelligence is a scientific idea which refers to the creation and development of computers and machine that can perform, process and make decisions independently of human input or interaction. To put it in simpler terms, an artificial intelligence system is one that can think for itself, even at a very basic level.
To frame this in a different way, a machine with artificial intelligence replicates the way we think as humans. AI systems learn through what we call ‘machine learning’ identifying patterns and trends to make their own decision about how best to succeed with a task. They can receive spoken and written instructions, recognise objects, faces and voices, and learn from their experiences and sensory equipment to carry out any number of tasks.
Most artificial intelligence agents are programmed with algorithms by data scientists and engineers which they use to sift through enormous datasets to identify patterns. These patterns help them learn how to respond to the world and carry out their tasks successfully.
What is the importance of AI in our daily lives?
Many of us benefit from AI in our daily lives without even realising it.
With a streaming service like Netflix or Amazon Prime, the recommendations you receive for shows you might enjoy are produced by an AI system which uses data on your viewing habits to decide on what series you might like to see next. A voice recognition service in digital assistants, such as in the case of Amazon’s Alexa, will receive data from its user in the form of spoken language and will translate that data into a text file using an algorithm in order to decide what the user needs it to do. AI in social media helps curate the content in your feeds to be more relevant to you while Google utilising artificial intelligence can sort through millions of search results to find the one that you’re looking for.
On a more complex scale, self-driving cars use a complex network of AI systems to make real-time decisions as they drive to keep the ‘driver’ and passengers safe throughout the journey. These kinds of cars receive data through a range of sensors, with a central computer using machine learning to make decisions based on patterns identified by those sensors, such as proximity to other cars, traffic lights and changes in the weather on the road.
On a more general level, much of our modern healthcare makes use of artificial intelligence to diagnoses and treat diseases and injury. Medical AI systems can receive data from a patient or a doctor and use what it has learnt about diseases through experience to identify miniscule patterns in that data for a more accurate diagnosis.
Why is artificial intelligence important to business?
Modern businesses use data in just about every part of their work. From logistics management to marketing, HR to strategies, companies use data to better inform their processes for a better end result. AI solutions are rapidly becoming more popular for analysing the data on hand and reacting to patterns in that data to help the business make better decisions. This increased popularity has also increased the need for professionals within the field, a demand level met by artificial intelligence courses hosted by many of the top educational institutions around the world.
Here are some examples of AI in business:
Marketing – For retail businesses, getting the products you think your customers will want to buy noticed is integral to improving profits. AI recommendations systems in smart shopping can use customer data to predict what the customer might want to buy, placing that product front and centre on a webpage to secure conversions. AI and CRM is also an integral application within marketing.
Logistics – Logistics is often one of the most complex parts of a business, and AI can help a lot in this sector by doing things like establishing shorter delivery routes with shortest path algorithms and managing things like delivery drones which are set to be a common logistics solution for the future.
Strategies – The best businesses out there use data to fuel their strategies and plans for the forthcoming financial year, and AI can help take the data they receive from their sales history and use it to forecast the sales for the future. These insights can help strategist make big decisions for the way the want to take their businesses going forward.
Production – Manufacturers often use AI to establish things like supply and demand for certain products, as well as resource management. If a product is experiencing a spike in demand for example, AI systems can instruct production facilities to increase production on that product to meet demand.
Frequently asked questions
What are the four types of AI?
There are four principle kinds of AI that different systems use to do different things. They are as follows:
- Reactive Machines – Reactive machines are designed to use AI to react to the present. They are unable to use the past to make decisions about the present or future, nor are they able to predict the future from the data they receive. They do not learn new behaviours, they only carry out that which they were explicitly programmed to do.
- Limited Memory – Limited memory AI machines use their experiences in the past to apply insights to the data they receive. To this extent, limited memory AI operate in the same way humans do when they learn to do something differently based on experience and external input.
- Theory of Mind – The theory of mind AI concept suggest that some machines may be able to have the level of intelligence and decision-making of a human mind, which theoretically would be evidenced by the ability to carry out a full conversation with a human.The key aspect here would be understanding emotions within the context of decision-making.
- Self-Awareness – The highest level of AI that we have currently theorised is self-awareness. Self-awareness would see an AI understand that it itself was an entity, with desires and the capacity for understanding its own, and other people’s feelings. A self-aware AI would at the most basic levels have its own thoughts, independent of tasks or goals.
What is the purpose of AI?
The overarching goal of AI systems is to analyse data and harness patterns from that data to better improve their tasks and output. With AI, computers can learn to complete tasks that require more intelligence, and in some cases, do things that humans ourselves can’t do without the calculating power of a computer system.
Who invented AI?
One of the first ever AI programs was created by American Arthur Samuel, who created a draughts playing computer AI program which was taught how to play the game in 1952. His work came off the back of decades of theories and ideas, perhaps the most prominent coming from iconic British mathematician Alan Turing and his leading paper ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’ which offered the famous Turing Test as a philosophical concept on the use of AI.
Modern AI is a diverse and endlessly fascinating area of scientific and engineering study, with new and exciting developments being made every year. This expanded usage of AI in products, businesses and services has seen a bigger demand than ever before for data scientists, business analysts and AI engineers, with new career paths opening up all the time.
If a career in artificial intelligence or machine learning is something you’re interested in, the University of Liverpool offers a pioneering and industry-leading MSc online course on artificial intelligence that could well be your first steps onto a machine learning career path. To find out more about the course, visit our webpage here.