It is unbelievably important that we understand what artificial intelligence (AI) is going to mean for the for the human race. We are at the precipice of one of the most significant discoveries of development since man learnt to create tools and fire. It is a road that once we walk down, there will be no turning back, once we achieve machine super intelligence, that intelligence will be self-learning and self-improving and could, in theory, be the last thing we as a human race, ever invent.
There will be a lot of articles about AI here on alternativemindsets.co.uk, but let’s take a step back and understand the different types of Artificial Intelligence.
What Is AI?
It’s easy to think of Artificial Intelligence as a silly sci-fi concept, there have been enough movies and television programmes that have had robots and AI in them, but you’ve never really taken it seriously as an actual possibility, this leads to a lot of confusion as to what it actually is and what the end result will look like. You ask someone to picture a rocket or a submarine, they will generally remember and retrieve visual memories of examples they have seen of real life models, because AI is just a concept that people are just coming to terms with, there are different reasons as to why people usually get confused about it.
I have narrowed it down to three reasons a lot of people are confused about the term AI:
1) We associate AI with movies. Star Wars. Terminator. 2001: A Space Odyssey. And they vary in polite and helpful butler servants to world destroying super robots so it is a concept shrouded in sci-fi and fantasy.
2) AI is a broad topic. In it’s broadest sense, AI refers to the functions in your washing machine to the self driving cars to something that could effect the lives of every single human being on this planet, so it is easy to confuse.
3) We use Artificial Intelligence EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. John McCarthy, who coined the term “Artificial Intelligence” in 1956, complained rather publicly that “as soon as it works, no one calls it AI anymore.” Because of this phenomenon, AI often sounds like a mythical future prediction more than a reality, always one step further than where we currently are. At the same time, it makes it sound like a pop concept from the past that never came to fruition, and we may continue to think of it as such with each incremental change.
We need to move away from the concept of AI as robots. A robot is simply a vessel for AI, the AI is the computer and the calculations made inside a robot and the robot, or the voice or the writing on the screen, is just the personification of the AI. The calculations that have been made need to be communicated to us somehow as we could not read the calculations as quick as the super intelligence could make them.
Secondly, you’ve probably heard the term “singularity” or “technological singularity.” This term has been used in math to describe an asymptote-like situation where normal rules no longer apply. It’s been used in physics to describe a phenomenon like an infinitely small, dense black hole or the point we were all squished into right before the Big Bang. Again, situations where the usual rules don’t apply. In 1993, Vernor Vinge wrote a famous essay in which he applied the term to the moment in the future when our technology’s intelligence exceeds our own—a moment for him when life as we know it will be forever changed and normal rules will no longer apply. Ray Kurzweil then muddled things a bit by defining the singularity (in his highly recommended book for budding futurists, The Singularity is Near) as the time when the Law of Accelerating Returns has reached such an extreme pace that technological progress is happening at a seemingly-infinite pace, and after which we’ll be living in a whole new world.
Finally, while there are many different types or forms of AI since AI is a broad concept, the critical categories we need to think about are based on an AI’s caliber or what shit it is programmed to do. There are three major AI caliber categories:
AI Caliber 1) Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI): Sometimes referred to as Weak AI, Artificial Narrow Intelligence is AI that specializes in one area. It took years of AI development to be able to beat the chess grandmaster, and since then we have not been able to beat the machines at chess. But that is all it can do. It can’t simulate flight paths or predict a better way to store data as it was programmed only to play chess, which it does extremely well.
AI Caliber 2) Artificial General Intelligence (AGI): Sometimes referred to as Strong AI, or Human-Level AI, Artificial General Intelligence refers to a computer that is as smart as a human across the board—a machine that can perform any intellectual task that a human being can. Creating an AGI is a much harder task than creating an ANI, and despite the many different teams, companies and corporations working on it, we are yet to complete it. Professor Linda Gottfredson defines intelligence as “a very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experience.” An AGI would be able to do all of those things as easily as you can.
AI Caliber 3) Artificial Superintelligence (ASI): Oxford philosopher and a current leading AI thinker Nick Bostrom defines superintelligence as “an intellect that is much smarter than the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom and social skills.” Artificial Superintelligence ranges from a computer that’s just a little smarter than a human to one that’s trillions of times smarter—across the board. ASI is the reason the topic of AI is such a hot potato topic and why the words immortality and extinction are often thrown in with the same breath in discussion.
Humans have conquered ANI, quite successfully, these can be recognised in the simplest of home appliances and is the first step in the ladder to AI Superintelligence. It is likely that the train of improvement will develop from ANI to AGI, then from AGI to ASI.
The concept of Artificial Intelligence is massively scary, but it doesn’t take much to understand the potential it has to fundamentally change every humans lives for the better, there are multiple concepts to explore and the ball has just started rolling through public interest, which is exactly where it needs to be, at the forefront in the minds of top scientists and politicians as this could be the turning point of where we become more than just a species on a tiny blue dot and we make the first steps to achieve species immortality.
Stay tuned for more AI.