What Does Artificial Intelligence Actually Do?

By Maria Hussain on 23rd March, 2021
It is quite impossible to discuss advancements in technology without landing upon Artificial Intelligence, or AI for short. It might be a household term thanks to our favorite films and pop-culture- we’re looking at you, Jarvis from Iron Man- people are still a bit unclear on what exactly it does, or means. Let us start with the basics.
Artificial intelligence is the ability of a computer or computer-driven robot to perform tasks that are usually performed by humans and require human intelligence and decision making skills. The field is still very limited, but it has taken over the world by storm (no pun intended). The untapped potential of AI is truly remarkable, as it is increasingly used in many fields to enrich life and make business easier.
How does artificial intelligence work?
Artificial intelligence amalgamates big data obtained by fast and effective machine learning techniques, with predetermined desirable outcomes for each situation presented to the computer. It makes the appropriate connections, also determining the next wisest step to be taken. This helps us reach our ultimate goals faster without needing human “intelligence” at every point.
The abilities of artificial intelligence:
If we look at it through a broad lens, AI has a few functional subtypes. The biggest one though, is machine learning. As mentioned above, it can generate automated data analysis and categorization- either supervised or unsupervised.
In supervised machine learning, the AI is presented with some amount of data with pre-established outcomes. The machine comes up with multiple, better ways to reach that outcome. It is not much different than solving a mathematics problem in which the answer can be reached with more than one approaches in calculation.
Alternatively, in unlabeled or unsupervised machine learning, large heaps of random data are fed into the AI system, and it establishes patterns or similarities that the human eye could not. This can be seen in AI-driven healthcare technologies.
Another ability of artificial intelligence is the creation of neural networks between different external inputs, thus deriving inferences from previously unanalyzed data. This is called neural networking. It is the main component of the “recognition” powers of AI.
Furthermore, it is able to make use of deep learning, which means it can read complex forms of a vast sea of data, and actually understand what is being communicated. May it be images, text, voice commands or any other form of input, a deep learning system is able to extensively and rapidly learn it. Furthermore, it incorporates Natural Language Processing, or NLP, to comprehend the textual/ spoken commands, and mimic them to respond in a natural, human-like manner. This is a big feature of virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa and the like.
One other very important feature of AI is its computer vision. In this functional subtype of artificial intelligence, a computer is able to “look” at images and videos and provide real-time insights about what it sees. In theory, this means that you can wear a pair of smart glasses and get instant information about everything in your sight.
Applications of artificial intelligence:
All of these abilities of artificial intelligence make it one of the world’s most awe-inspiring and groundbreaking technologies. It is no wonder that AI is becoming more common in businesses and other fields, in order for them to perform more efficiently and cost-effectively. Here are some of the applications of AI:
In online business and streaming sites:
With the accessibility of artificial intelligence systems for companies of all sizes, e-commerce has truly soared to new heights. AI can read and recognize thousands of images and words, and create the most appropriate tags; as well as organize the products into subcategories. It is not only able to track the behavior of the customers, but also provide recommendations, advertisements and offers tailor-made for every single one of them.
An example of this, is how Netflix displays different thumbnails to different users- for each show or film- depending on the user’s previously watched media history, by studying what kind of genres, plot lines or script languages, etc. interest the user into spending the most streaming time.
(Using: unsupervised machine learning, deep learning, neural networks)
In chatbots:
Chatbots are software applications that can conduct online conversations on their own, via text or text-to-speech. Installing chatbots helps a company talk to thousands of users without having to dedicate that much of their valuable time or manpower. These chatbots can collect data and execute customer services smoothly and effortlessly.
(Using: machine learning, deep learning, neural networks)
In the workplace:
With every workplace drowning in heaps of workload, artificial intelligence proves to be useful in a number of ways. Personalized AI software or bots can now be appointed for each employee, which will do the mundane or repetitive tasks, and save them lots of time to focus on the work that actually requires their expertise. This also decreases workload and improves employee satisfaction, as well as the company’s rate of output.
(Using: supervised and unsupervised machine learning, deep learning, neural networks, computer vision)
In human resources:
It is a well-known fact that with the automation of the recruitment process, and online job postings, the HR department has to deal with thousands of job applications to find one potential hire. With AI software, they are able to drastically narrow down the list of candidates they need to interview, by running those applications through complex algorithms and letting the software read and weed out the most accurate matches for whatever position and skill set they have programmed into it.
In addition to this, a company can incorporate AI to collect data from each employee, and provide insights on what tasks they will be most suited for, along with establishing where they can get the appropriate help if they need any. In this way, the employees are looked after and the HR department knows exactly how to appeal to each employee and keep them giving their best efforts.
(Using: supervised learning, deep learning)
In supply chain and delivery:
AI, combined with customer data and analysis, can make the shopping experience frictionless. Not just that, but products can take less and less time to be delivered to the customer because of automated, fast and intelligent supply chains. It is not so far-fetched to imagine robots taking full control of handling logistics without much human supervision.
(Using: supervised learning, deep learning, neural networks)
In gaming and sports:
When it comes to gaming, AI has been used to drive non-playable characters and bots, to help different players course through the game. It also help developers design the game according to a vast number of possible outcomes, of any choices that a player could hypothetically make.
In sports, however, AI is focused more on analyzing large databases of historical and current matches, scores, climatic conditions, players and teams, etc. This assists coaches and captains in making better strategies in training and playing. It is also used to drive the growing sports betting industry, with accurate predictions and profitable bets.
(Using: supervised learning, unsupervised learning, neural networks, deep learning)
In healthcare:
This one is perhaps the most life-altering use of artificial intelligence seen in our world, literally. AI based systems can be installed for patients requiring constant care and observation, i.e. the terminally ill or senile. They keep up with the condition of the patient and also diagnose and manage everyday complications. Moreover, they can even predict when a patient is at risk of developing hospital acquired infections or when they should be transferred to the ICU.
Furthermore, years and years of patient records can be fed into an AI system, for it to look for any patterns and insights into each disease. For instance, the AI system can now tell doctors which demographic or social group is more at risk of developing a certain disease, and needs to be paid special attention. Or, predict new risk factors for developing cancer.
(Using: unsupervised learning, deep learning, computer vision, neural networks)
In agriculture:
Another application of AI that has radically changed things for the world, is in agriculture. AI-driven, smart systems look after farms and crops- spotting weeds and diseases in plants, as well as suggesting solutions to deal with them. It even seems likely that we may be able to solve some of the world’s food insecurity problems, thanks to the rapid, effective agricultural techniques supported by artificial intelligence.
(Using: computer vision, supervised and unsupervised learning, deep learning)
The list of fields and businesses utilizing artificial intelligence to improve the quality of their work, definitely does not end here. For AI, it seems to only be going upwards and onwards. As for anyone concerned about a dystopian future, that involves a robot-induced eradication of mankind- worry not. We have only just begun expanding these technologies and it is unlikely that they become advanced enough to operate independently; at least for a long, long time.