July 8

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Artificial Intelligence: What it is, How it Works

Artificial intelligence is, according to the definition of Wikipedia, the ability of a computer to perform functions and reasoning typical of the human mind .
But defining exactly what artificial intelligence is is a tall order. According to what is reported by the De Mauro dictionary, it is a “ set of studies and techniques that tend to the construction of machines, especially electronic calculators, capable of solving problems and reproducing activities typical of human intelligence” .

At the moment, however, there is still no universally accepted definition since artificial intelligence is an extremely recent and rapidly evolving sector.
Among the various examples of definition of artificial intelligence, Bellman (1978) considers it ” the automation of activities that we associate with human thought” as “decision making, automatic problem solving, learning … “, while for Knight ( 1991) would be the ” study of mental faculties through the use of computational models “. Finally, among the examples of definition of artificial intelligence there is Stubble fi eld (1993) who identifies it with “the branch of information technology that concerns the automation of intelligent behaviors “.

What is artificial intelligence?

This term was coined in 1956 by John McCarthy during a two-month seminar at Dartmouth College in Hanover to which he invited ten researchers interested in the theory of automata, neural networks , the study of intelligence, but with interests that also ranged from the development of  automatic reasoning systems  to  games such as checkers.
In the following years, the studies on artificial intelligence were confined strictly to the academic field. And it is in those years that the first neural networks  and  fuzzy logic were also developed . Two concepts at the basis of artificial intelligence.

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Neural networks and fuzzy logic

In order to understand what artificial intelligence is, you must first have clear these two concepts.
The concept of a neural network itself is very simple. It is a mathematical model which tries to simulate the biological neuronal networks of our brain where each neuron is connected on average with tens of thousands of other neurons through synapses which, in addition to allowing us to reason, also allows us to manage every function and nerve of the body. And it is precisely here that fuzzy logic “hooks up”, also known as either fuzzy logic or fuzzy logic. Everyone, or almost everyone, knows that a computer works using Boolean logic, that is, it works on two values, zero and one (binary logic). A statement, therefore, can only be true or false with no middle ground. Fuzzy logic is used in the study of artificial intelligence to introduce an intermediate truth value , i.e. a variable can take on a value, for example, of 0.2 or 0.6. An evolution of Boolean logic that, in a nutshell, allows a given statement to be true, false or partially true or partially false .

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Strong intelligence or weak intelligence?

There are two strands of theories about the artificial intelligence of robots and machines: strong artificial intelligence and weak artificial intelligence. We speak of weak artificial intelligence when a robot or a computer in general will never be able to reach human intellectual abilities, but only simulate some human cognitive processes without being able to reproduce them in their total complexity. This is the current research situation. We have now come to this point.
There are, however, the proponents of the theory of strong artificial intelligence who go beyond the research carried out so far and hypothesize that one day the “machines” will have their own intelligence, autonomous and independent, equal to or superior to that of humans.

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Examples of artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence, however, must not be conceived as something distant to us and confined to science fiction films: it is everywhere and already today it simplifies our life, even if we often do not realize it. Here are some examples of artificial intelligence with which we interact on a daily basis.

Virtual assistants

They are called Siri, Google Now, Cortana. Very kind and always available, they respond to our voice commands to remind us of a commitment, search the web, send an SMS or answer a phone call. And these are just some of the requests we can make of our invisible assistants. These software use artificial intelligence algorithms for language recognition but also to learn our habits and preferences over time and better meet our needs.

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Anti-crime

Our cities, airports, stations are controlled by thousands of cameras. These images are examined in real time by human operators aided by powerful software. They are able to recognize not so much suspicious faces as behavior patterns that can be a warning sign. In fact, with appropriate training, these programs, which are able to process thousands of images per second at the same time, can detect if someone leaves a suitcase at an airport, carries a weapon or wanders suspiciously near a school.

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Smart Home

One of the most interesting applications of artificial intelligence concerns home automation. These are all those systems that manage environments in terms of temperature, lighting, sound according to our habits and preferences.

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Smart car

The latest generation cars keep the traffic around us under control, they anticipate braking in the event of a sudden slowdown and some are even able to follow the lanes of the road on their own. In short, these cars are able to make decisions based on what happens in the surrounding environment. To do this, they use artificial intelligence algorithms similar to those of video games that learn and modify their behavior with experience.

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