5 Big Myths of AI and Machine Learning Debunked

  • AI sounds good in theory, but what is the real-world value of machine learning?
  • Weak AI, also sometimes called “narrow AI,” is a collection of technologies that rely on algorithms and programmatic responses to simulate intelligence.
  • Also called “ true AI,” strong AI in contrast, is intended to think on its own.

AI has been with us in one form or another for over 60 years and yet it seems to be more misunderstood today than ever. It’s not for lack of trying. Venture capital investment in AI now tops $3 billion annually, and the number of active startups in the U.S. that are developing AI technologies has gone up by a factor of 14 since 2000. A huge number of consumer products are now being built with AI, from smartphones that understand what we say to smart dolls that can understand how your child feels.

The myths around artificial intelligence can get pretty dense, so we’ve taken five of the biggest and dissected them to help you understand the truth about today’s AI landscape.

But in the enterprise, the sentiment surrounding AI still seems to stress caution. First-movers aside, executives are hesitant to implement AI and machine learning systems in their organization and that’s if they even understand the difference between the two.

AI sounds good in theory, but what is the real-world value of machine learning? Will true AI really ever come to pass? AI is here, it’s already proving itself in the market, and it’s increasingly being built with business in mind. Those billions of dollars pouring into AI startups are already having an impact, turning out powerful tools that leverage cutting-edge cognitive technologies that can give your business decision-making processes a massive upgrade. The tech is getting easier to use than ever, too. You won’t need an army of Stanford Ph.D.’s to manage many of today’s AI tools and it won’t kick you out of the corner office, either.

The myths around artificial intelligence can get pretty dense, so we’ve taken five of the biggest and dissected them to help you understand the truth about today’s AI landscape. We’ll address some major misconceptions to set your business on the right path toward success in the world of AI.

MYTH #1: AI AND ML ARE THE SAME THING

As with many new technologies, artificial intelligence has created a gold rush effect across a lot industries. All manner of products have been described as having been built with AI, to the point where the term has become a buzzword that has seemingly lost much of its meaning.

So let’s try to get some of that meaning back by breaking down the various forms of AI to understand what capabilities we really have available to us today.

AT ITS SIMPLEST LEVEL, AI CAN BE SPLIT INTO TWO CATEGORIES: STRONG AI AND WEAK AI. THE NAMES HAVE EVOLVED IN RECENT YEARS, BUT THE TERMS CAN GENERALLY BE THOUGHT OF IN THE FOLLOWING WAYS.

All manner of products have been described as having been built with AI, to the point where the term has become a buzzword that has seemingly lost much of its meaning.

WEAK AI

Weak AI, also sometimes called “narrow AI,” is a collection of technologies that rely on algorithms and programmatic responses to simulate intelligence, generally with a focus on a specific task. When you use a voice recognition system like Alexa to turn on the lights, that’s weak AI in action. Alexa may sound smart, but it doesn’t have any advanced understanding of language and can’t determine the meaning behind the words you speak. The program simply listens for key sounds in your speech and, when it detects them, follows its programming to execute certain actions. To users, this can seem surprisingly intelligent — and voice recognition is far from a simple computing task — but in reality there is no actual “thinking” going on behind the scenes. Non-player characters (NPCs) in games are another good example of weak AI. While they take human-like action, in reality they’re simply following a pre-programmed series of actions designed to mimic how a human would play the game.

STRONG AI

Also called “ true AI,” strong AI in contrast, is intended to think on its own. These are systems built with the human brain as their archetype. Strong AI is designed to be cognitive, to be aware of context and nuance, and to make decisions that are not programmatic in nature but rather the result of a reasoned analysis. Strong AI, in general, is designed to learn and adapt, to make a decision tomorrow that is better than the one it made today. None of this is an easy task, which is why most examples of AI you’ll encounter today are the “weak” form. Strong AI is a new, complex and varied category with numerous sub-branches. Because the goals of a strong AI system vary from one implementation to the next, two strong AI systems almost never look the same.

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