How To Explain AI to People That Have No Idea What AI Is.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) involves using computers to do things that normally require a human’s brain. This means creating algorithms to classify, analyze, and draw predictions from data. It also involves acting on data, learning from new data, and improving over time. Just like a tiny human child growing up into a (sometimes) smarter human adult. And like humans, AI is not perfect. Yet

The difference between AI and regular programming? Regular programs define all possible scenarios and only operate within those defined scenarios. AI ‘trains’ a program for a specific task and allows it to explore and improve on its own. A good AI ‘figures out what to do when met with unfamiliar situations. Microsoft Word cannot improve on its own, but facial recognition software can get better at recognizing faces the longer it runs.

To apply AI, you need data. Lots of it. AI algorithms are trained using large datasets so that they can identify patterns, make predictions, and recommend actions, much like a human would, just faster and better.

We interact with AI every day in our professional and personal lives:

  • Task automation: repetitive back-office tasks such as clerical work, invoicing, and management reporting can be automated to save time and improve accuracy. Factory and warehouse work can also be automated using AI-powered robots.
  • Customer support: remember the online text chat you had with your bank’s customer support? That may have been a chatbot instead of an actual human.
  • Social media: Facebook uses AI to recognize faces. When you upload photos to Facebook, it puts a box around the faces in the photo and suggests friends’ names to tag.
  • Self-driving cars: Onboard cameras and computers identify objects and people on the road, follow traffic signs, and drive the car. Early models are already safer than human drivers.

Still, even the best AI today cannot match up to the human brain in some respects. While some AI is designed to mimic the human brain, AI today is only good at a relatively narrow range of tasks. AI can apply massive computing power to a narrow set of data and methods. The brain, on the other hand, applies medium computing power to a much wider set of data and methods.

Put differently, we can apply our brains to almost anything, while AI specializes in certain things.