Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere, in the news, TV commercials, and countless movies and shows, but what exactly does the term mean? The best way to describe it is to first state what it is not. It is not Skynet or HAL 9000, at least not yet.
AI, simply put, is the capability of machines to mimic cognition, primarily learning and problem solving. Over time the scope of what AI is has changed, so that previously cutting-edge tasks, such as text recognition, are dropped as those functions become routine. Optical character recognition (OCR) is now found in everything from Adobe Acrobat to Google Translate on your smartphone. Today, speech recognition, strategic games, and driverless cars are all considered AI but in time will also likely be dropped from the definition. Cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter summed it up best saying “AI is whatever hasn’t been done yet.”
While these tasks seem amazing to us there are many tasks we take for granted that AI cannot perform. The CAPTCHA program you see on websites is incredibly simple to us but fools even complex AI. Jokes, satire, and non-verbal communication also confound the most powerful AI systems. Consciousness is the missing link.