Artificial Intelligence: what & why?

As a matter of fact, today people are talking so much about Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI is changing the world, AI is essential for renovation, AI is for so many many things … even every university wants to add an AI course to their syllabus!

Back to just some years ago, if you proposed using AI for your company’s products, you would have a good chance that everyone laughed at you in the company’s meeting 🙂 Believe it or not, but so many people would think that AI is something like sci-fi rather than realistic.

However, things have changed rapidly. Nowadays, they will laugh at you if you state that using AI is not necessary. Not only giants like Google, Facebook, or Amazon … are increasing their values rapidly by the help of AI but also small and medium companies are trying to follow the trend, because they have found that AI could bring them huge benefits.

So, what exactly is AI?

Simply, ones can think AI as a kind of intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast with human intelligence. But that should be considered as a very simple and popular definition of AI so that everyone can understand.

A formal definition of AI in Computer Science would be: the study and design of any intelligent agent which perceives its environment and takes actions to maximize the chances of successfully achieving its goals.


That definition may sound a little bit complicated, right?
Not actually.
The above image demonstrates an example of intelligent agent: a humanoid robot is trying to catch an object from a human hand. For the perception, the robot uses its cameras to detect the object, and the action (to maximize the chances of success) is the movement of its arms accordingly in order to catch the object.

Today we can find AI applications everywhere, from finances, marking, healthcare, to autonomous vehicles, gaming, sports, … According to PwC, the potential contribution of AI to the global economy by 2030 will be 15.7 trillions dollars! On the other hand, Tractica forecasts the annual revenue for AI software worldwide by 2025 will be $126 billions (versus $10 billions in 2018). The following graph shows a report of total investment in AI until October 2019 (in $ billions)

Surprisingly, despite the fact that AI is now a very hot trend, it is not considered as a recent technology, because it was first introduced in the 1950s.
Indeed, AI became famous in the 1960s with some very first applications. However, in the 70s and the 80s, AI had fallen into two “winter” periods when many AI projects had to deal with funding cuts. The development of AI seemed to stall because the available approaches were not sufficient to produce expected results. Nevertheless, in late 1990s, AI started coming back and quickly got more and more successes in the 2000s. And since a decade ago, it is said that we are in the booming era of AI.

So, what are the main reasons for this strong coming back of AI?

Here are the three most important factors that have been keeping AI on track:
Large amount of data: AI and notably Machine Learning, need a lot of data. In the past, AI failed because there were not enough data. But nowadays, thanks to the capacity of storage and the accumulation of data of information systems through many years, AI has enough data for training and for analyzing.
Powerful computing resources: training AI algorithms often requires a lot of time. With the help of powerful computers today, computation can be processed million times faster than before.
Good R&D results: AI always needs many researches in order to discover new algorithms and to optimize the existing methods.

In conclusion, nowadays AI is very important as it has been bringing huge benefits to so many industries. But you should know that although there have been more and more investments in AI, but it still lacks of qualified employees, thus open many good opportunities for ones who have a background in this domain.

In the next post: Branches of Artificial Intelligence, I will provide you a comprehensive overview of AI’s branches and how they are classified, so that you will get the whole picture of this very big domain. Trust me, you will hardly find that kind of complete overview on the Internet.

Thank you for reading & sharing.

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