What can AI do that we can’t?

The problem is that when you listen to the news or some technology programme they will say some new machines or programme uses AI to do a certain task. This becomes a simple throwaway comment. As if somewhere inside the app, the machine there is a thing called AI as if it lives in a little box working its magic. 

There is so much mystique surrounding it and yet the fundamentals are relatively simple. Also you can learn to create your own from scratch without having to have a degree in maths or computer science. Later in this book I will take you through an example step by tiny step. 

Artificial Intelligence is an increasingly broad term to describe anything which seems to do something useful and similar to what a human could or can do. For example recognise pictures of a dog and be able to tell the difference between a dog and a cat when presented with pictures of both. 

The illustration of images of cats and dogs is very simple but quite useful. A two year old child could probably tell the difference 99 times out of a hundred. What the Ai doesn’t know is what a dog is or a cat for that matter. A child is introduced to cats and dogs at a very early age and knows increasingly through experience what a cat is does and what a dog is or does sometimes just through observation. 

A computer AI programme is shown thousands of images of cats and dogs, all the images are labelled. It is then show a picture of a cat or dog it hasn’t seen before and has a guess (with a probability score) whether it is a cat or a dog. This is AI at its simplest level. 

What it can’t do is tell you anything about the cat or dog, it might not even be able to always get it right even if to you, me or a two year old is plainly obvious. It will also be flummoxed if you show it a picture of a bird although it might tell you as best guess whether it is most like a cat or a dog. 

Computers are very good at some things, mainly doing calculations, lots of them, tirelessly and very fast. Better and faster than a human could ever do. It looks at the picture of the cat and dog and calculates all the pixels in the image and compares them to another picture and has a good guess based on what it has been shown. 

Humans don’t do that, they can generalise. A cat is a cat whether it is sitting, running, eating, sleeping, from the front, side and back. A computer (AI algorithm) needs to process the image. A computer finds hard what we can do easily and it can do things easily which we can find very hard.