What is Artificial Intelligence?

    Image copyright: Improve the News

    The Facts

    • WHAT IS AI? Artificial intelligence, AI, is simply non-biological intelligence. Intelligence is often defined as the ability to accomplish goals. Early AI systems, like the one that first beat humans at chess, had skills programmed by humans, while today's best AI instead learns its own skills from large amounts of data.

    • CURRENT USES: Early AI had a narrow skill set, say chess-playing or speech recognition. Today, AI is getting gradually broader skills, and like human intelligence, it's now used in every industry. AI advises us with chatbots and virtual assistants, and recommends who should get a job, a loan, or parole. AI helps us write and translate, entertains us with art, music and poetry, and perhaps tricks us with deepfakes. It dominates trading on Wall Street, diagnoses disease, and accelerates science. Online, AI recommends what ads, products, social media posts and search results to show us, and what to block or filter as spam. On the road, AI supports ride-sharing, navigation, traffic management, and autonomous vehicles. It powers ever more powerful surveillance and ever more autonomous weapons.

    The Spin

    Pro-establishment narrative

    Artificial intelligence will be great for humanity and is no cause for alarm. Amplifying human intelligence with AI will free people from boring and dangerous jobs, and bring greater prosperity for all. Ultimately, AI will help cure diseases and unlock amazing new technologies with which humanity can flourish like never before. Contrary to luddite scaremongering, old jobs will be replaced by new better ones. AI can be biased against marginalized groups and misused to spread disinformation and break laws, but responsible tech companies are currently working with governments and other stakeholders to prevent this.

    Establishment-critical narrative

    Unelected tech leaders gain undue influence through creepy AI surveillance and by controlling the truth with their AI-powered social media algorithms, and this manufactured truth includes "AI isn't a threat." Why is it legal to sell AI built to kill, and to deploy AI so powerful that its makers don't fully understand it? Like Homo Sapiens outsmarted and replaced the Neanderthals, AI will soon outsmart and replace Homo Sapiens – first on the job market and then altogether when we're no longer needed. Whoever first creates AGI won't have won an arms race but a suicide race, dooming humanity.

    Technoskeptic narrative

    AI is overhyped, and won't eclipse humans for a long time, if ever. Although today's chatbots, translators and image generators may seem impressive, they lack a fundamental understanding of the world that they mask by learning statistics from a ridiculously large data set.

    Metaculus Prediction

    Go Deeper

    Sign up to our daily newsletter