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What Is Artificial Intelligence and Why Is It So Important for the Future?

Divya is a perpetual learner and loves writing. This is her attempt to explain complex topics in the simplest way possible.

Artificial intelligence is already here, and you likely use it every day.

Artificial intelligence is already here, and you likely use it every day.

Technology is mingling with our lives more and more every single day. Technical buzzwords have now become part of our everyday vocabulary. But even though we use these terms regularly, do we understand what they mean? Understanding how they work is even rarer.

Let's try to understand artificial intelligence in the context of a technology that we already use on a daily basis.

What Is Intelligence?

Before we think about artificial intelligence, let's focus on intelligence first and what we understand about it.

The common definition of intelligence is "the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills". This is a good, straightforward definition. But we still lack an example to understand intelligence.

Let's break down the definition into two parts: acquiring and applying. There are many ways to gain knowledge and skills. Sometimes we follow the traditional school-college system. But these days, with information being accessible, we can gain knowledge in so many ways.

Then comes the applying part. What do we do with the knowledge and skills we gain? Here too, there are many options available. The knowledge and skill may help us in our professional career or it may aid in our hobbies or it may just become a cool topic to discuss in the next part we attend.

All of us are born with this ability to gain and apply knowledge and skills. That has kept our species alive and has enabled us to become the dominant species on this planet. But the level of intelligence varies from person to person. No two humans are identical.

Now that we understand what intelligence looks like in humans, let's explore what it looks like in computers.

What Is Artificial Intelligence?

In the simplest of terms, artificial intelligence is just a computer algorithm that automatically performs some of the same computational and analytical tasks that humans do. But isn't that what all programs do? Every computer program performs a task that was performed by humans.

How Is AI Different From Traditional Computer Programs?

A computer program is nothing but a set of instructions. A step-by-step guide telling what the computer needs to do next. The program takes the input, then processes it based on the instructions we provided, and then gives us the expected output.

Like when we set the alarm on our phones, we tell the program to perform a certain task (ring the alarm sound) at a certain point in time. The program just needs the time as an input and then it will perform the said task.

Artificial intelligence can think and perform tasks without our explicit inputs. Note that I am saying without explicit input. What that means is that even artificial intelligence needs a push in the right direction—data that is fed to it. Like an AI-enabled alarm app on our phone will access our daily routine and current sleep pattern and then, based on that, it will wake us up at a time it thinks is appropriate for us.

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This raises a question: Why do we need AI to decide when we wake up if we can set our alarm ourselves? Well, let's look at AI from a different direction. What if we do not know what output we are looking for?

For instance, we are scrolling through a Netflix catalogue. We just know we want to watch something, but we don't have a specific show or movie in our mind. We just want someone to recommend us something that we might like. Here, the recommendation algorithm will look at your past viewing patterns and then make some suggestions. They might work or you might end up hating the recommendation. Either way, the recommendation algorithm will make a note and apply that in the future.

So when we know what output we are looking for, we use a computer program. When we do not know what the result would be, we need some sort of artificial intelligence model.

It’s pretty similar to how humans operate, too. If we know what dish we want to make, we follow the recipe. When we want to experiment in the kitchen and come up with a new dish, then we need a different type of knowledge and skill set.

Artificial Intelligence Is Already Present in Our Daily Lives

When we think about AI, we still think about futuristic advanced robots controlling the world, like shown in many sci-fi movies. But AI has already entered our daily lives. Here are a few of the many examples of AI present around us:

  • Google Search: This is a simple yet the most common one. We use google so much that now we use the term 'Googling' when we was to say 'searching online'. Google shows us results based on data it has collected on us to give us the best possible match. So for the same search query, it is possible different people will have different results.
  • Alexa, Siri and other voice assistants: Voice assistants are becoming more and more popular. Even if we do not have separate devices, most of our phones have some or the other voice assistant. These assistants are getting increasingly efficient in providing us with information we didn't even know we needed.
  • Newsfeed: Any kind of newsfeed, from our social media to news websites to streaming services like Netflix or Spotify to the personalized advertisements we see online, has been algorithmically customized by AI based on our profile.

There are more and more AI-based applications coming into our lives every single day. Whether or not we like it, AI is here already, and it looks like it’s going to stay.

Why Artificial Intelligence Is Important for the Future?

AI has applications in every sector, and it has already changed how we operate. Already we can not imagine a world without Google search results or YouTube-recommended videos. Going forward, AI's influence on our life will increase more and more.

AI is already changing the world. Right from helping us find parking spots in busy cities to predicting the weather, giving us access to the information we never could have dreamed of before, and even predicting earthquakes and tsunamis based on past data, AI has applications where ever we look.

AI has the potential to solve some of the world's biggest problems, like climate change, poverty and war. It can also help us understand our universe better by looking at data from space telescopes or other devices.

In the online world, every one of us is generating so much data every single day. With scientific advances in every field, more and more data is being generated by ever-advancing technologies. With so much data, it is becoming more and more difficult for human intelligence to keep up and make any meaningful connection. We do not have the capability to process so much data using only human intelligence. Artificial intelligence will soon become a necessity without which human development will not be possible.

A Shared Future

AI is a new phase in technological development in human history. It has the potential to change our society like electricity or automobile vehicle did. AI is not an abstract, futuristic concept. It is already here and we can see more and more ways it can shape our future.

Like any technology, it has benefits that come with its own set of risks. We may love it or hate it, but AI is going to be an important factor in shaping our future.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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