Artificial Intelligence (AI) has had a major resurgence in the past few years. If we look at the history of AI, we see a repeated cycle – it was at the forefront in the 80’s too – it has been going through cycles of over-promise, investment, under delivery and investment reduction. However this time around, the technology advancements, scale and attention being paid to AI are much larger than before. The advances in big data technologies combined with cheap massively scalable infrastructure and storage is now helping us tremendously to tackle bigger and bolder problems in Artificial Intelligence.
However, we are really just at the tip of the iceberg with AI. In a few years, AI will be so intertwined and pervasive within business operations that it may be impossible to do business without it. And fundamental business models of today are going to change, as AI evolves. Even today we use AI all the time in our daily lives, and sometimes we don’t even realize it’s AI. Our phones, cars, social media and internet experience are all filled with AI as there are multiple components of software and analytics working to provide us the most customized experience. However these components can do only what it has been programmed for – it is applicable for a very narrow use case.
Levels of AI
There are really 3 levels of AI: Narrow, General and Super.
1. Artificial Narrow Intelligence is a form of artificial intelligence that is equivalent or better than human intelligence at solving a very specific narrow problem.
2. Artificial General Intelligence is intelligence that matches human level intelligence to solve any kind of problem that a human can solve intellectually.
3. Artificial Super Intelligence is smarter than the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific, artistic, general knowledge and social skills.
Today, when we speak about AI we are mostly referring to Artificial Narrow Intelligence, both in the consumer space and the industrial space.
Most people think of robots when they think of AI in the industrial context, especially for manufacturing. But really, a robot is just a physical form for Artificial Intelligence; AI is actually the computer in the robot. AI is the brain, and the robot is its physical shape.
A lot of work we are doing with AI today in the industrial world is artificial narrow intelligence. For example, being able to mine through petabytes of data to predict when a power grid might fail, so that we can proactively send field service engineers to fix the issue before it happens and prevent a power outage. But that’s the only thing it does. This form of AI cannot extend itself to repair the part that might cause the power grid failure. Optimizing the production schedule in a factory for maximum throughput is another classic ANI use.
But can we think of a self-maintaining power grid system that needs no human interventions? And a power grid that designs the next generation of better and more optimized power grids? Or a self-diagnosing self healing jet engine that repairs itself mid-air for minor repairs and goes into the shop only for major repairs? Just as a human would be able to Band-Aid a minor cut but goes in to the hospital to meet the surgeon when deeper expertise is needed.
Path from Narrow to General to Super
I think Artificial Narrow Intelligence will truly evolve and reach its limits in every aspect in the next decade, based on the software and analytic techniques we have today – whether it be machine learning or neural networks – and the compute power available today.
However, even today we don’t have the software or hardware needed to build Artificial General Intelligence or Super Intelligence. Human brain is incredibly complex. Building the software and analytic techniques to mimic our brain is unbelievably challenging. What seems really simple and easy for a human brain is extremely complex and difficult to program and compute. But when we do start down the path to Super Intelligence, the impact to all humans is something that we can only imagine today. Artificial Super Intelligence will have the intelligence of all the smartest human beings combined. Can you imagine what our world would look like with artificial super intelligence?
I will dive deeper into the three levels of AI over the upcoming posts. Until then, do share your thoughts and comments.