Chapter 1. What is Artificial Intelligence?

Defining artificial intelligence isn’t just difficult; it’s impossible, not the least because we don’t really understand human intelligence. Paradoxically, advances in AI will help more to define what human intelligence isn’t than what artificial intelligence is.

But whatever AI is, we’ve clearly made a lot of progress in the past few years, in areas ranging from computer vision to game playing. AI is making the transition from a research topic to the early stages of enterprise adoption. Companies such as Google and Facebook have placed huge bets on AI and are already using it in their products. But Google and Facebook are only the beginning: over the next decade, we’ll see AI steadily creep into one product after another. We’ll be communicating with bots, rather than scripted robo-dialers, and not realizing that they aren’t human. We’ll be relying on cars to plan routes and respond to road hazards. It’s a good bet that in the next decades, some features of AI will be incorporated into every application that we touch and that we won’t be able to do anything without touching an application.

Given that our future will inevitably be tied up with AI, it’s imperative that we ask: Where are we now? What is the state of AI? And where are we heading?

Capabilities and Limitations Today

Descriptions of AI span several axes: strength (how intelligent is it?), breadth (does it solve a narrowly defined problem, or is it general?), training (how ...

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