A Quick Introduction to AI

This column is authored by Srikanth Devarajan, Technical Director, NTT DATA Inc

artificial intelligence ai introduction

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to revolutionize the human civilization and will impact industries, companies and how we live our life.

Why AI?

To understand the motivation behind Artificial Intelligence, let us compare some of the differences between traditional Computer programs vs. Human Intelligence. Normal humans have the same intellectual mechanisms, but the difference in intelligence is related to “quantitative biochemical and physiological conditions.” On the other hand, computer programs have plenty of speed and memory but their abilities corresponding to the intellectual mechanisms solely depend on the efficiency of the computer programmers and what they to put into programs. Traditionally, computing is used for performing mechanical computations using fixed procedures. Far more complex problems are more difficult to solve, for example unlike humans’ computers have trouble in understanding specific situations and adapting to new situations. AI is required to make machines think and tackle such complex assignments. It is a game changer.

Artificial Intelligence is nothing new to computing, its roots can be tracked back to the 1940s. Many Scientists have been using AI to test theories and notions about how the human brain functions.

In the past few years, Artificial Intelligence is gaining incredible momentum, more than ever before in human history. This can be attributed to the advancement in cheap superfast computing power, rapid connectivity and bandwidths, growing IoT capabilities, and massive investments on cloud based computing and infrastructure offerings. Such advancements have propelled AI to a new level. Many industries are preparing themselves for the AI boom.

What is AI?

Rather than being just devices that perform tasks that the programmer tells them to do, AI enables computers to perform tasks (autonomously) that normally require human intelligence: visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.

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Artificial Intelligence is all about training computer systems to learn, analyze, think and make decisions like humans at a greater speed. What does the word “think” really mean here? Using AI, machines could ponder, deliberate, contemplate, consider and then mediate decisions on their own. What are decisions? Making choices to arrive at a conclusion, then judging and offering a verdict or predicting something just like human cognitive processes. The cognitive process is the selection of a belief or a course of action among several alternative possibilities. With constructs like machine learning and deep learning expanding, AI is maturing at a rapid pace. It is increasingly adept at various complex tasks and is infiltrating into many fields.

What is common between Netflix’s or Amazon’s recommendation engine or the popular voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, Cortana, or self-driving cars? AI. When it comes to health care, AI is improving prevention, prognosis, and treatment. For example, the popular IBM ̓s Watson Health can analyze and suggest possible cancer treatments.

A Few Things to Know

Machine Learning: Machine learning is the new paradigm where computer systems and machines use algorithms to analyze massive (big) data sets and learn from the data to solve problems on their own rather than using traditional functional programming.

Natural Language Processing (NLP): NLP is the computer’s ability to recognize and understand human speech as it is spoken. The common NLP tasks are sentence segmentation, part-of-speech tagging, parsing etc. The eventual goal of AI-NLP is to communicate to a computer directly using natural human language than using computer languages. A human should be able to talk to the computer like communicating to another human. Siri, Alexa and Cortana are starting stages of this movement.

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Predictive APIs: Application program interface (API) is a library of routines, protocols, and tools provided by the software makers to use and employ different functionalities offered in their software suites. Predictive APIs are similar sets of libraries that are used to employ different functionalities and capabilities of machine learning and their predictive models. The benefit of predictive API is that there is nothing to install; if you want to use machine learning, just consume the API.

Deep learning: Deep learning is an advanced facet of AI. This is the mimicking of the brain by constructing artificial neural networks, so that the computer is trained to recognize patterns, images, sound, and text. How complicated is human brain? Normal humans have about 10^12 neurons in their brain. The cycle takes about 1millisecond.

AI Investments: According to a recent Forrester survey there is about a 300% increase in investment in cognitive computing in 2017 when compared to 2016. International Development Corporation states by 2020, the investment into AI will be nearing 50 billion.

To conclude my introduction, AI will change humankind for the good. Individuals, organizations, Governmental agencies etc. should start reshaping themselves for the AI boom.

Corporations seeking greater insights from their data will be increasingly investing in AI. Moreover, I strongly feel that AI is not reserved for few niche companies (or crazy ones’ planning scenarios to take over the world 🙂 ). Our imagination can go vivid thinking about Robots taking over the world etc., don’t worry, the world will not be taken over by evil machines for at least the next few hundred years.

AI has many good things to offer for the betterment of humanity. AI is here to stay forever.

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