What is Artificial Intelligence, really? Future Inventors Club 101

Artificial Intelligence seems to be brought up at least once a day and yet, how many of us actually know what AI is? And more importantly, do we actually have artificial intelligence today? Is JARVIS hiding in a New York skyscraper somewhere?

what is artificial intelligence future inventors club 101

As AI is part of our Future Inventors Club subscription, we decided to break this down into a simple explanation that will have you understand what AI is regardless of whether you’re 10 or 110. Ready to learn?

So, what is AI?


Artificial Intelligence is a branch of computer science that deals with the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions.

Okay, there you have it. That’s the simplest definition of Artificial Intelligence, but that doesn’t mean it is a complete one. Having a JARVIS like AI sure could come in handy but we are far, far off from getting there. To truly understand what AI is, we need to understand what it is today and what it will be in the future. To do so we’ll have to explore the different types of Artificial Intelligence.

Did you know? 

The term Artificial Intelligence was coined in 1955 by John McCarthy, Marvin Minsky, Nathaniel Rochester, and Claude Shannon.

1. Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI)

Artificial Narrow Intelligence is a system that is programmed to learn about a single task which it then has to perform efficiently and intelligently. 

ANI is what exists in our world today and you probably encounter it more often than you think. Examples of Artificial Narrow Intelligence (or Weak AI) are:

  • Speech recognition – can only recognise speech.
  • Voice Assistants – only act upon voice commands which perform a certain action (i.e.: Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana).
  • Recommendation systems that show you items that you would be interested in based on your browsing history – think Amazon recommended products. 
  • The Google page ranking algorithm that determines what order websites sit in on the search results.  

Narrow AI is not conscious, sentient or driven by emotion like humans are. It operates only within a pre-defined and pre-determined set of tasks, even though it might seem otherwise at times.

2. Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)

Artificial General Intelligence is the AI you are probably thinking of when you hear the term. This is what Jarvis and R2-D2 would classify as if they actually existed. But, what is AGI (Artificial General Intelligence)

Artificial General Intelligence allows a machine to learn and apply knowledge and skills in different contexts in a very human-like way through autonomous learning and problem-solving. An AGI would be capable of mastering multiple fields of study to world-expert level – think Curie, Turing, and Bach combined! This type of machine would be able to see connections across disciplines that no human could. 

While experts expect AGI to be able to reason, make judgements under uncertainty, plan, learn, be innovative and creative – all human-like characteristics – it wouldn’t actually achieve true human-like intelligence. For that to happen, machines would need to be capable of experiencing consciousness. Which leads us to…

3. Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI)

The Holy Gr-AI-l (see what we did there?). If we ever get Artificial Super Intelligent machines well… we’re not sure we should call them a machine in the first place. But, what is ASI (Artificial Super Intelligence)?

Artificial Superintelligence is an aspect of intelligence which is way more powerful and sophisticated than a human’s intelligence. ASI would surpass humans in every way and its creation would lead to a world in which a computer’s cognitive ability is superior to ours. 

Artificial Super Intelligence would be sentient and have a consciousness. It would be able to wish, dream and feel just like we do. Except for, you know, the superintelligence part. ASI would be smarter and able to solve problems faster than any human in history.

Can we create Artificial Super Intelligence?

If Artificial Super Intelligence made you frown, first of all, don’t worry. The chances we will end up with an Ultron or HAL version of it are slim.  

Researchers are taking precautions to ensure we don’t end up with an evil AI by following both strong ethical safety regulations and technological safety regulations. Plus, if we said we’re quite far from having Artificial General Intelligence, well we’re even further away from creating Artificial Super Intelligence.

To achieve such a scientific feat, we’d first have to figure out not only how to recreate consciousness outside of our own brains (as far as we know we are the only living things that have it), but also what consciousness really is in the first place. 

This is why Artificial Intelligence researchers are working closely with neuroscientists to map out the human brain and understand it fully in order to be able to replicate it in an artificially intelligent system. If they succeed in doing this and achieve Artificial General Intelligence, then the leap from AGI to Artificial Super Intelligence will definitely be a short one. 

Phew! There you have it, that is what Artificial Intelligence really is – or will be at some point in the near future. 

If you and your child would like to learn more about AI, the Future Inventors Club subscription tackles this subject in its second drop! You can check it out here and get the first month free.

Read More on AI: 

If you’d like to dig deeper into the AI subject, here’s a small list of interesting articles, research papers and documentaries we’ve read and watched in the past:

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