What is Artificial Intelligence and What are its Uses?

When a machine or device behaves intelligently, we call it artificial intelligence (AI). Intelligent behavior happens when the machine or device is able to sense its environment and take actions that maximizes chances of success in achieving some goal. While there are sensors that can sense light, sound, touch and more, and respond, it still needs humans to build goals into the machine and provide the knowledge on how to respond to achieve the goals.

However, as machine learning is perfected, machines might be able acquire knowledge without human intervention. And when they also learn to set goals for themselves, well, that could spell danger for humans! What if a machine decides that it doesn't want the meddlesome humans to prevent it from achieving a goal it has set for itself!

However, AI is still far from that stage. Intelligence has many components and ways have not been found to equip machines with all of these. While expert systems can memorize more knowledge about a topic and use it far better than humans, e.g. come up with a better diagnosis for cancer treatment, they could not yet be equipped with the vast storehouse of small facts and integrate them to make commonsense decisions.

So What Useful Things can AI do?

AI can be incorporated into the SatNav in your car so that it offers your regular route as a default suggestion when you start. It "learns" the route from repeated experience and stores it in memory. It can then check traffic conditions and guide you along the best route to your office.

Going further, the self-driving cars can do far more (in due time, that is). It can not only select the route but do the actual driving - accelerating, braking, lane keeping, avoiding collisions and obeying traffic signals. These "autonomous" cars that sense the environment around them can reduce accidents, speed up journeys and enhance road capacity say, by needing only six meters between vehicles as against standard 10+ meters, among other benefits.

Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), can incorporate AI to make them capable of sensing their environment and taking appropriate decisions, as in battlefields. Civilian uses of UAVs are proliferating in agriculture, disaster relief and medical assistance, cargo delivery, entertainment and more. They can also help in law enforcement.

Dangers of AI

When work done by humans are automated, jobs are eliminated and resultant problems can affect society. Self-driving cars, for example, can eliminate the jobs of cab drivers.

And we have already pointed to the supreme danger of all, elimination of the meddlesome humans by devices that have learned to set their own goals and decide on actions to achieve these!

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