Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science that studies intelligent systems (i.e. software, computers, robots, etc.). Alternatively, it may be defined as “the study and design of intelligent agents“, where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chances of success. John McCarthy, who coined the term in 1955, defines it as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines”.

For practical purposes, it is useful to distinguish between two different interpretations of ‘AI’:

  • Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), where McCarthy’s “intelligent machines” have at least human level capabilities. AGI does not currently exist, and when, or if, it will is controversial.
  • Machine learning (ML) is a discipline of AI that includes basic pattern recognition and deep learning and other techniques to train machines to identify and categorize large numbers of entities and data points. Basic machine learning has been used since the 80s and is responsible for many capabilities such as recommendation engines, spam detection, image recognition, and language translation. Advances in neural networks, and computing performance and storage, combined with vast data sets in the 2000s created a whole new level of sophisticated machine learning applications. This type of “AI” is ready for prime time. Yet, as powerful as these new techniques are, they are not AGI. i.e, “human level”.