What is Artificial about Artificial Intelligence?

Five months ago, I joined a company that developed a new way to build and deliver software solutions. What makes it new is how Artificial Intelligence is embedded in data, to make data ‘smart’. I am only beginning my journey with this company but already see both the possibilities and challenges of the AI conversation. As a curious participant in the AI evolution I wanted to share the questions I have begun to toil with and share a little of what I have learned so far.

My first thought was why is it called Artificial Intelligence. What is artificial about Artificial Intelligence (AI)? Is it that the intelligence simply doesn’t come from a human and is therefore artificial? Does this create a blind spot for us? What if we were visited by aliens? Would their intelligence be artificial? They might not think so. Could it be that we don’t know what we don’t know about intelligence? How can we begin to talk about artificial intelligence if we don’t fully understand human intelligence.

It made me wonder if you distill intelligence down, is it simply the ability to apply knowledge and skills, or something greater? Many AI articles talk about AI taking over mankind and being an existential threat. It seems that we are talking about more than just knowledge and skills but also emotion such as anger, guilt, love, or consciousness, a state of being awake and aware. There is a field called emotional intelligence, so maybe that is implicit in the artificial intelligence equation. We also experiment with animals to see if they are self-aware (some are). Should their intelligence factor into the equation?

What is it that scares us about intelligence? Is it the other human traits such as emotion, consciousness, and the subconscious that can cloud our rational mind and make us do things we regret? I suppose intelligence is more of a continuum we ride on. I’m reminded of the smart, otherwise sensible person who gets cut off on the road and then exhibits road rage behavior. Does this mean you can toggle between intelligent, dumb, and back to intelligent? As human beings we certainly aren’t intelligent all the time especially when our rational mind gets worn out.

We of course equate AI with computers and their perfect, sustaining ability to perform. Is it AI, computer advancement, or both that as they mature will drive us to an AI led world? I have learned there are many levels of AI and the ability to mimic human intelligence. Pattern matching and supervised learning are at the lower end of the AI spectrum, while Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI), is the at the other end. ASI is a hypothetical AI that doesn't just mimic or understand human intelligence and behavior; ASI is where machines become self-aware and surpass the capacity of human intelligence and ability. This supports the notion that AI is more than just applied knowledge and skill.

Another AI term called “The Singularity”, is a point in time where technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unforeseeable changes to human civilization. This is when a computer gains knowledge and skill at an accelerating pace where we both can’t understand how conclusions are made nor what they mean. We may, at this point discover what intelligence really is but it may be too late. We may think the machine is broken because its conclusions defy our laws of physics. It reminds me a bit of the internet which in the beginning was a marvelous invention to bring humanity together but through social media we have realized we can create depression, anxiety and stress. We have a lot more to learn and understand about intelligence and the artificial variety. Maybe the best AI is one that doesn’t try to become human.

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