The Confusing World of Artificial Intelligence

artificial intelligence

I’d venture to guess that what most of us know about AI would fit in the proverbial sewing thimble even though it’s used in all the gadgets we have. For example, every command to Alexa is analyzed by an Artificial Intelligence algorithm to improve its performance. Every movie you watch on Netflix is input to an AI algorithm that improves the movie selections that it presents to you. AI is also present in all your Google searches, your driving maps and it does most of the flying when you’re in a plane.

AI is changing how we live and how we work in ways we probably can’t yet imagine. It will impact healthcare, education, poverty, crime management, security and much more. In our manufacturing world, it will vastly improve how our machines operate. There will come a day when every EtherCAT, EtherNet/IP, and PROFINET IO end-node will use Artificial Intelligence to perform better. And the key is, it won’t have to be taught to do that, it will just learn what to do and when to do it.

The AI world is confusing, even to those among us that constantly ready, study and learn about it. Many of us don’t always use the terminology correctly. The following three terms are constantly misused. Do you know the differences?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to computing systems that augment and replace the logic of human intelligence. AI systems are implemented in a range of approaches. With vast amounts of data, AI systems can use these techniques to improve the way humans make complex decisions.

Machine learning (ML) systems focus on statistical techniques to improve tasks over time. It is a subset of AI. Machine Learning is what enables Alexa and Siri to continuously improve on their responses to your voice commands.

Deep learning (DL) is a subset of machine learning. Deep Learning systems use neural networks – systems that try to mimic the organization of the human mind only with vastly more data than is available to anyone’s mind. Deep Learning is what has enabled algorithms to learn new games and become experts at them.

What’s fascinating about many of these techniques is that they all require massive amounts of data. They can do wonderous things but only if they have enough data available to them. That’s completely unlike how the human mind works – the human mind is much more powerful. A baby’s mind reaches conclusions about how things work with minimal data. A recent Wall Street Journal article made this exact point. A baby observes the world around it and deduces how objects work and how to affect its environment without having massive data the way that Artificial Intelligence systems do.

AI and its subsets like Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Augmented Thinking and Autonomous computing will all change our lives. It certainly will deeply affect our work lives – product quality and machine efficiency will vastly improve over the next few years. And as the birth rate declines, our manufacturing systems must become more autonomous, and the only way to do that is with AI. There just won’t be people to hire in ten, twenty or forty years.

But for all its power, all its potential, will AI lead to more human happiness? Will we be less lonely? Social media, you can argue, haven’t had an overall positive effect. Let’s hope for more from Artificial Intelligence.