Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence exhibited by machines. In computer science, the field of AI research defines itself as the study of “intelligent agents“: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of success at some goal. Colloquially, the term “artificial intelligence” is applied when a machine mimics “cognitive” functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as “learning” and “problem solving”.
It’s a very contentious subject right now. All sort of data mining and expert systems, bots and other stuff are being wrongly classified as Artificial intelligence, but in reality none of these things are. The self deriving car contains elements of it, but ultimately the part that makes the decisions as it drives is an old fashioned rules engine that simply follows it’s programmed rules and makes no decisions for itself.
Perhaps the most contentious discussions right now relates to systems that carry out deep learning and make very accurate decisions with no supervision or re-training. For example a system exists that, with a totally empty memory and no knowledge, can be placed in front of an Atari space invaders game and in a few hours, from observation it not only learns what the game is, but plays it at a super-human level. Nobody knows how or why it is able to do this. Another system made up of many agents has invented its own language with which to communicate and which nobody understands or is able to interpret. These issues tend to preoccupy the conversation in 2017
The “Explained series” is planned to build into a trustworthy collection of explanations and commentaries that can be trusted to tell the story straight without any bias and attempt to make the subjects accessible to the layman. The latter is not always easy as some of these terms refer to genuinely complex subject matter, while others are simply too vague to pin down (there’s another word for that).
If you want an answer on something and you can’t find it easily, please use the comments section to just ask and I will appreciate not having to research the next topic.