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Defining Artificial Intelligence

Updated: May 3, 2023

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

AI is a digitisation technology which automates tasks, activities and processes in the workplace. It is reliant on data, lots of it, to problem solve, reason and make judgements. #artificialintelligence is fast becoming a business and customer value generating technology for organisations across many sectors including medical (diagnosis of disease), and financial (identifying and preventing fraud) sectors and even in #HR business processes (recruitment and selection). As a business leader or manager, are you thinking about AI? If you aren't thinking of AI, you may be out of the loop of a significant technological development - a fourth Industrial Revolution - likened to the Industrial Revolution.

The term “artificial intelligence” (AI) was coined by John McCarthy in 1956. Google CEO Sundar Pichai states that “AI is one of the most important things humanity is working on [and] it is more profound than… electricity or fire” (Clifford, 2018). Although there is a lot optimism about AI, others like Elon Musk and the late Stephen Hawking have warned that AI may pose a threat to the human race (Sulleyman, 2017; Cellan-Jones, 2014). While Hawking described AI as “either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity”, Musk emphasized the importance of AI regulation stating that “there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level” to ensure that AI does not become a risk to humanity in the future (Hern, 2016; Marr, 2017) (Oxford AI Programme, 2022).

AI technologies has the potential to transform your workplace but is it a viable technological alternative and what are the ethical and legal implications of using AI algorithms to drive value in your business? #JungianBitsofInformation will soon be offering a unique #AI service from business case to ethical considerations with a perspective from #jungianpsychology #analyticalpsychology. So, What is AI? What is the future trajectory of AI? What is it's potential and ethical concerns? How do you drive AI in the workplace? This is the latest in a series of #JungianBitsofInformation blogs dedicated to AI ahead of the launch of this new service.

There is no single agreed definition of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The topic of AI has been discussed by several writers, however, there is a definition by Russell and Norvig (2016:1) - recommended reading in the #JungianBitsofInformation's Motivational Reading List - which I find helpful to understand AI. Their definition of AI suggests that there are eight prominent definitions of AI, which can be categorised into four dimensions: thinking humanly, acting humanly, thinking rationally, and acting rationally.

(Source: Said Business School, University of Oxford, Artificial Intelligence Programme, 2022)

Thinking Humanly

The ability of a machine or AI to think like a human by problem solving, and making decisions. This category is based on type of AI that aims to mimic human cognitive capabilities and includes the following definitions of AI (Russell & Norvig, 2016:3):

“The exciting new effort to make computers think… machines with minds, in the full and literal sense” (Haugeland, 1985).

“[The automation of] activities that we associate with human thinking, activities such as decision-making, problem solving, learning…” (Bellman, 1978).

Human cognitive capabilities are used to develop an AI algorithm i.e. to match the internal functioning of the human brain with a computer programme (Russell & Norvig, 2016:3). Human behaviour can therefore be used as a 'map' to guide the performance of the algorithm.

Thinking Rationally

The ability of a machine or AI to perceive information, make judgements, reason, and then act based on the result, and includes the following definitions of AI (Russell & Norvig, 2016:1). This type of AI uses logic to solve problems and includes the following definitions of AI (Russell & Norvig, 2016:3):

“The study of mental faculties through the use of computational models” (Charniak & McDermott, 1985).

“The study of the computations that make it possible to perceive, reason, and act” (Winston, 1992).

This approach is based on the 'laws of thought' approach or the human reasoning process. The Greek philosopher Aristotle tried to codify the human reasoning process by crafting patterns for argument structures or syllogisms that would always lead to a correct conclusion in a given scenario. An example of one of these reasoning patterns is: “Socrates is a man; all men are mortal; therefore, Socrates is mortal” (Russell & Norvig, 2016:4). Aristotle’s syllogisms were supposed to serve as the roadmap of how the human mind operates, and led to what is now referred to as logic (Oxford AI Programme, 2022).

Acting Humanly

The ability of a machine or AI to do the things that humans can (Oxford AI Programme, 2022) and includes the following definitions of AI (Russell & Norvig, 2016:3):

“The art of creating machines that perform functions that require intelligence when performed by people” (Kurzweil, 1990).

“The study of how to make computers do things at which, at the moment, people are better” (Rich & Knight, 1991)

This type of AI is based on the famous Alan Turing test which involves testing the intelligence of a machine. The testing is done by a human who poses questions in order to gain insight into the respondent’s intelligence (Russell & Norvig, 2016:2). The machine will be considered intelligent if the human is unable to tell whether the responses are from a human or from a machine. An accessible description of the Turing test can be found in Michael Woolridge's book, Artificial Intelligence, listed on #JungianBitsofInformation Motivational Reading List.

A machine or AI passes the Turing test if it accomplishes the following tasks (Russell and Norvig (2016:2) :

Natural language processing: This enables the machine to communicate in a human language.

Knowledge representation: This gives the machine the ability to store what it already knows, as well as any new information it receives.

Automated reasoning: This allows the machine to use its stored information to draw conclusions.

Machine learning: With this, the machine can adapt to new circumstances and identify and infer patterns.

Acting Rationally

The ability of a machine or AI to act and behave in rational ways by accomplishing tasks with the best possible or expected outcome in any given scenario (Russell & Norvig, 2016:4) and includes the following definitions of AI (Russell & Norvig, 2016:3):

“Computational intelligence is the study of the design of intelligent agents” (Poole, Mackworth & Goebel, 1998).

“AI… is concerned with intelligent behavior in artifacts” (Nilsson, 1998).

(Russell & Norvig, 2016:1)

How do I view AI from a Jungian perspective? Coming soon in future #JungianBitsofInformation blog, I'll explore definitions of AI from a Jungian perspective.

AI can perform highly complex problem-solving (such as unravelling intricate cancer diagnoses), but it can also suffer major setbacks (such as the potential for racial discrimination)(Oxford AI Programme, 2022). In the recent months #JungianBitsofInformation is offering a new service to organisations. An Artificial Intelligence service: to identify opportunities for AI in your organisation and guidance on the ethical considerations to address the common pitfalls of AI with a unique perspective from #analyticalpsychology. Contact me for more information.


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