The promise of AI for industrial automation
What is AI? A simple question with a simple answer, you would think. “Artificial intelligence” you might say, and you’d be quite right of course. But as soon as we dive a little deeper, the water gets murkier. Intelligence itself is the ability to think, so you might say that any thinking ability being performed by something non-living is artificial intelligence. But that would mean that a humble calculator is AI, and personal computers are all AI, since they have the power to process data inputs and apply a form of logic or reasoning.
But we don’t think of a calculator as being AI, nor even most PCs nowadays. This paradox is known as the AI effect, which basically says that as soon as something is a normalised function, it is ‘computation’ and not the ‘thinking’ that a human brain (so-called “wetware”) is capable of, and that AI is all about. In other words, we keep pushing AI further into the future. In a sense then, AI is more of the same development that we have already seen as technological computation tackles decision making previously the preserve of humans.
In that sense, it’s much easier to get a grasp of what AI means right now; we are talking about AI as the progress of cutting-edge processing technologies that are already taking shape, such as driverless cars, and natural speech-driven commands (virtual assistants and the like). We mean complex processes that require constant interpretation and decision making that are coming into the realm of ever more ‘intelligent’ machines.