Foreword by Peter Matson, Machine Learning Solution Architect at Calligo

In the world of technology, few concepts have captured our collective imagination like Artificial Intelligence (AI). It’s the promise of machines that can think, learn, and perform tasks with a level of sophistication that mimics human intelligence. Yet, the allure of AI has also given rise to a web of confusion, myths, and misunderstandings.

At Calligo, we recognize that navigating the AI landscape can be akin to traversing a labyrinth—a journey fraught with complexity and riddled with misconceptions. As the Machine Learning Solution Architect at Calligo, I’ve seen firsthand the challenges that business leaders face in grasping the true potential of AI.

In this article, “Navigating the AI Maze: Demystifying Artificial Intelligence and Its Misconceptions,” we embark on a mission to bring clarity to the bewildering world of AI. Our aim is to equip you, the business leaders and decision-makers, with the knowledge needed to discern fact from fiction and to make informed choices regarding AI adoption.

Defining AI: Understanding the landscape

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become a ubiquitous term in our modern world. From self-driving cars to personalized recommendation systems, AI has permeated nearly every aspect of our lives. In order to talk clearly about AI we need to have a shared definition of what we mean.

One such definition comes from John McCarthy, a professor of Computer Science at Stanford University who, in is his 2004 paper “What is Artificial Intelligence”, defined AI as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs. It is related to the similar task of using computers to understand human intelligence, but AI does not have to confine itself to methods that are biologically observable.”

This definition is useful and is used by many organizations including IBM. However, this is too general to cover the nuances of how AI has evolved over the last two decades. Microsoft has shifted from using a singular definition of AI to having several definitions that split the types of AI into meaningful categories: Narrow AI, General AI, and Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI).

Narrow AI is “the ability of a computer system to perform a narrowly defined task better than a human can.” This includes Machine Learning and is the type of AI we see in production today in autonomous vehicles, in Amazon and Netflix recommendations, and in Large-Language Models (LLMs) like ChatGPT.

General AI is “the ability of a computer system to outperform humans in any intellectual task.” This is the sort of AI we see in movies with super intelligence computers acting under their own agency. As of today, General AI is still theoretical. It remains to be seen if we can (or should) build General AI systems.

Artificial Super Intelligence is “a computer system that … [has] the ability to outperform humans in almost every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom, and social skills.” This, like General AI, is theoretical.

As technology has advanced and AI applications have diversified, the definitions of AI have become more expansive and multifaceted, encompassing a wide spectrum of techniques and technologies that enable machines to perform tasks that were previously deemed uniquely human. This evolution of AI definitions has been driven by the emergence of various AI subfields, including machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing, computer vision, and more. These subfields have significantly contributed to the broadening of AI’s scope, making a clear definition of AI ever more important.

As you may have noticed, this list of definitions is not exhaustive. Many more definitions can be found in our glossary, which will help you to clarify and understand the landscape further. 

What About Machine Learning?

At the heart of AI’s capabilities lies machine learning, a subset of AI that has revolutionized the way computers process information. The origin of Machine Learning systems stemmed from research by neuroscientists into how humans think. The first model was built in 1952 by Arthur Samuel to play checkers and learn from each match to improve. This is important to note, as not all AI is machine learning. Where machine learning differentiates itself is that it is dynamic and able to make changes without direct human intervention.

This represented a significant departure from traditional rule-based systems. Instead of relying on rigid, pre-defined rules, machine learning algorithms have the capacity to learn and adapt from data. This adaptability makes them versatile and capable of handling complex tasks that were once exclusively within the domain of human intelligence.

Machine learning can be further categorized into several subfields, each with its unique characteristics and applications.

  • Supervised Learning: A type of machine learning where algorithms are trained on labeled data, where the correct answers are known. They learn to make predictions or classifications based on this labeled data and can include tasks like fraud detection, image recognition, or language translation.
  • Unsupervised Learning: A type of machine learning where algorithms learn from unlabeled data. These algorithms identify patterns, structures, or relationships within the data, often used in clustering and dimensionality reduction tasks.  
  • Reinforcement Learning: A type of machine learning that trains algorithms to make sequences of decisions to maximize a reward. It’s commonly used in applications like game playing and autonomous robotics.
  • Neural Network: A type of machine learning that mimics the way that humans think by creating a set of interconnected nodes or neurons. Neural networks excel in making decisions on non-linear and complex data and are often used for computer vision, natural language processing, speech recognition, and recommendation engines.
  • Deep Learning: An advanced type of machine learning that uses multiple layers of neural networks to simulate the behavior of the human brain. This requires large amounts of data and builds increasingly complex networks to find patterns and make predictions on data. It is commonly used in image recognition such as Apple’s Face ID and natural language processing.
  • Generative AI: A type of machine learning that is used to create new content, including images, sound, video, and data. It is designed to impersonate how humans create based on the set of data that is used to train it. We’ve seen an explosion of these types of models recently from companies like OpenAI with ChatGPT and DALL-E or Google’s Bard or Meta’s AudioCraft.

The Complications of Generative AI

All of these are examples of Narrow AI and are designed to handle a specific task or set of tasks. Some people will refer to Generative AI as Gen AI, which is also a term used for General AI. We have yet to develop General AI and we must use care when discussing AI and use the correct terminology.

Generative AI is relatively new to the field of AI and Machine Learning and has added complications to how we think and define AI. Despite how it may appear, Generative AI does not understand truth. It uses the same techniques as other machine learning models; it recognizes patterns in text and pairs that with data from the training set to make a prediction based on the set of data it was trained on. While this is quite impressive – it is not close to thinking and is not General AI.

Generative AI is built on unsupervised models where a clear objective cannot be defined. It uses deep learning and neural networks to identify patterns and structures within existing data to generate new and original content. Natural language processing and labeled data supplement the inputs to help refine what the output should look like. It’s important to note that the outputs aren’t fully original but are formed based on the training data to impersonate how humans create. This is why having DALL-E create a painting in the style of Van Gough works – the model is trained on his work or works of similar paintings that were tagged with expressionism or other related terms.

This can lead to some serious pitfalls if you try to apply generative AI to problems it was not built to solve and why transparency and accountability are critical to build trust. Generative AI is built on training data that has assumptions built into it which are not observable to the end user. Large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT look for words that belong together and have learned the rules of the language they are trained in. They don’t understand the words they are using or the meanings behind them which can lead to what are called hallucinations – where a model will output a false result as if it were true. Additional guard rails must be built by the developers to protect against these cases.

With neural networks and by extension, Deep Learning and Generative AI, it is impossible to understand why a particular decision was made. Deep Learning models have millions of data points that are used to create a single decision. To test models, researchers will try a set of inputs and see what comes out of the model or analyze the training dataset, which may not be available to end users. This leads to complications that must be considered before implementing. While I can’t cover all of these issues in this blog, we talk more about them in our podcast, Beyond Data.

The Path to Informed Decision-Making

Clarity and understanding are the compasses we must wield while navigating the AI maze. AI literacy is not a luxury but a necessity for individuals, businesses, and policymakers. Informed choices are the bedrock of responsible AI adoption, ensuring that the benefits of AI are harnessed while mitigating risks.

As we venture into the future, AI is poised to become an even more integral part of our lives. Its potential to drive innovation, solve complex problems, and enhance human capabilities is boundless. However, with great power comes great responsibility. We must prioritize accountability, transparency, and ethical decision-making in AI development and deployment.

Ultimately, we must embrace the complex beauty of AI—a field that challenges our understanding of intelligence and offers solutions to some of humanity’s most pressing issues. Through AI, we can unlock new frontiers, empower individuals and organizations, and chart a course toward a future where technology serves as a force for good.

As we stand on the precipice of this AI-driven future, let us embark with clarity, responsibility, and a deep appreciation for the remarkable journey that is Navigating the AI Maze.