Futurist’s Cheat Sheet:
Artificial Intelligence


There is no more powerful concept in futurist writings then the notion of artificial intelligence. The ability for humans to create machine-based life that thinks on its own and acts on its own has the potential to make our lives dramatically better – or worse, depending on what kind of science fiction you read. But getting there won’t be easy.

What Is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence has long been a pipe dream of scientists and science fiction writers. In reality, though, we are nowhere near the practical application of artificial intelligence. True artificial intelligence implies a conscious machine with subjective experiences and thoughts; self-aware, sentient (with the ability to feel) and the capacity for wisdom (sapience).

Apple’s Siri voice-activated personal assistant and Google’s search algorithms are examples of the current state of artificial intelligence. Neither acts on its own nor perceives intentions. You can have a conversation with Siri by interacting with a collection of pre-loaded answers, but there is no intelligence behind it. Siri merely uses a set of rules to select the most appropriate canned answer to your question.

Siri and Google search are examples of what is called “weak artificial intelligence” – or machine intelligence not intended to match the capabilities of human beings. A weak AI engine could recognize characters, play chess or drive a car. But a machine performing intelligent actions is not necessarily acting intelligently. There is a difference between a smart machine (one that can take various inputs and act accordingly) and one that has its own cognitive capabilities. A smartphone can know many things about its surroundings, but does it know to call Mom when your fiance dumps you?

Strong AI lies on the other end of the spectrum. Strong AI presupposes that a machine can match or exceed the intelligence of a human. It can think on its own and perform intelligent calculations as well or better than a human could. Strong AI, as defined by engineering researchers and philosophers, does not currently exist. To find strong AI you need to turn to the science fiction realm of The Terminator, The Matrix or Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot.

Read more: Futurist's Cheat Sheet: Artificial Intelligence — ReadWriteWeb.

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