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Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence, such as sight and speech, decision making, and language translation.

Although artificial intelligence has been an active lab product since the early 1950s, and great strides have been made, it remains an emerging technology. The use of computers to translate from one language to another has improved, but not nearly to the point where it can compare to a human being who is proficient in both languages. Anyone who has tried to carry on a conversation with Siri or Alexa can appreciate the gaps that still exist in the technology as it is in use in home computer devices.

The work toward creating and perfecting AI applications has been underway for as long as there have been computers. I recall that there was an AI chat program available for BBS systems as far back as the late 1980s. Although rudimentary by today's standards, it was quite impressive at the time. BBS users would sometimes carry on a chat with the AI character for a half hour before they realized something was up.

The first AI conference was held at Dartmouth College in the 1950s, one of its goals being to create a working definition for artificial intelligence. At the time, this goal was to be able to use a computer to mimic the way in which human beings learn. Today, that definition has been expanded, and AI has become an umbrella term to cover a wide variety of technologies that are now in common use.

Any speech recognition program that converts speech into text is AI. Siri is AI. In fact, two different AI programs are called upon when you ask Siri to perform a task and the task is performed. The first is speech recognition, a capability that is used in several applications today. The first part of what Siri does is to convert your spoken words into text. The second part is to decide what the task was and complete it.

Sometimes, it's even more complex. "Siri, what's the weather today?" Upon detecting that command, Siri converts your spoken command into text and then determines what task the words are asking for. The computer in your iPhone then has to determine your location, go to a weather reporting engine, ask it for the weather for your location, and then interpret the output of the weather engine, so that it can report it back to you in a way that is understandable to you, a human being. Usually, this occurs in milliseconds. Of course, anyone who has an iPhone knows that not every response from Siri is particularly helpful.

Artificial intelligence programs are used to play games, and strategic game systems have recently been competitive even against professional human opponents, such as chess masters.

Sophisiticated AI systems have been developed to display elements of cognitive and even emotional intelligence, seemingly understanding human emotions, and considering them in its decision-making process.

Today, the goals of research into artificial intelligence include natural language processing, perception and reasoning, knowledge representation, learning, planning, and the ability to move and to manipulate objects.

Artificial intelligence is used several healthcare applications, including the diagnosis of disease and surgical procedures.

Of course, we have all heard of the driverless cars that are being created by various companies, including Apple, Google, and Tesla. While they are not yet in mainstream use, they are being tested in various places.

Banks and other financial institutions have long used AI applications to detect charges or claims outside of the norm, in bookkeeping, stock investments, and property management, an advantage being that AI programs are on duty twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and can react even when the banks are closed.

Governments and large corporations use racial recognition programs to some extent, and the technology exists for it to be used for mass surveillance of populations. Military drones are also AI applications.

The growing use of artificial intelligence is not without concerns, however. People today, including many of those who are heavily involved in the development of AI technology, ask some of the same questions that science fiction authors posed several decades ago. Can a machine truly be sentient? If so, is this a good thing? Are there hard limits to what a machine can do? Will AI bring about massive unemployment? How can we be certain that these machines will behave ethically? Will they always be under human control? Are they capable of intentionally causing harm to a human being? Are they dangerous?

Topics related to artificial intelligence and AI applications are the focus of this category.



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