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Artificial Intelligence

Kismet, a robot head that can imitate expressions Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of a computer to carry out tasks by thinking in the same intelligent way that a human does—and, eventually, better. But AI is not just about acquiring more information than humans have. A computer with full AI must be able to learn and to come up with new ideas of its own. A computer can be programmed in such a way that it can simulate (imitate) AI. It has a big program that knows many things, answers questions—and can follow a strategy to win at the complex board game Go. But a computer with simulated AI cannot come up with answers it is not programmed to answer. For example, although it may already know the weather forecast for the weekend, and even the fact that many people tend to head for the beach when it is warm and sunny, it cannot advise whether the traffic is expected to be heavier than normal—something which any human would know.



Alan Turing, aged 16

Turing test

A good way of deciding whether a device has “full” AI is to apply the Turing test. Named after the person who suggested it, British computer scientist Alan Turing (1912–54), this is a test to see whether a computer can trick a person into believing that the computer is a person too. Turing thought that if a human could not tell the difference between another human and the computer, then that computer must be as intelligent as a human. No one has yet made a computer that can pass the Turing test.

Professor Stephen Hawking predicts that the development of full AI “could spell the end of the human race”. He believes that AI would take off on its own and redesign itself. “Humans couldn’t compete and would be superseded.”

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