Thursday, February 11, 2021

History and Types of AI

 Technology is advancing fast, and wide adoption is taking less time. It took around ten thousand years to go from writing to the printing press, while it took only another five hundred for the email to become popular among the general public. According to Noah Berlatsky, the idea of AI has fascinated people for hundreds of years with the first science fiction novel, Mary Sheley's Frankenstein (1818), focused on a scientist who builds an artificial, intelligent creature.[1] The term AI was coined in 1956 by the American computer scientist John McCarthy, who defined it as "getting a computer to do things which, when done by people, are said to involve intelligence." AI can be defined as a broad area of computer science that makes machines seem like they have human intelligence. There is no standard definition of what constitutes AI, though, because there is a lack of agreement on what constitutes intelligence and its relation to machines. Over the years, many movies have been produced, which have captured people's imagination about the possibility of super-intelligent robots that can perform tasks more efficiently and accurately than humans. There have been many movies depicting the relationship between humans and robots. Some films have portrayed AI robots with limitations, while others have portrayed them as having emotional feelings and able to relate to humans like other humans. According to American computer scientist John McCarthy who coined the term AI, "Intelligence is the computational part of the ability to achieve goals in the world. Varying kinds and degrees of intelligence occur in people, many animals, and some machines." [2] Human intelligence includes capabilities such as logic, reasoning, conceptualization, self-awareness, learning, emotional knowledge, planning, creativity, abstract thinking, and problem-solving. A machine is generally considered to use AI if it can perform in a way that matches these abilities, which are in human intelligence. AI is categorized into three types. They are (a) Narrow or Weak AI, (b) General or Strong AI, and (c) Super AI.

Narrow or Weak AI

According to Joe Carter, "Narrow AI (or "weak AI) is the capability of a machine to perform a more limited number and range of intellectual tasks a human can do." Narrow AI can be programmed to "learn" in a limited sense but cannot understand the context. While different forms of AI functions can be put together to perform a range of varied and complex tasks, such machines remain in the category of narrow AI. Today there are many applications of narrow AI. This type of AI is not conscious, sentient, or driven by emotion the way that humans are. Narrow AI operates within a pre-determined, pre-defined range, even if it appears to be much more sophisticated than that. Google Assistant, Google Translate, facial recognition, speech recognition, Alexa, Cortona, Siri, and other natural language and image processing tools are examples of Narrow AI. These are called "Weak" AI because these machines are nowhere close to having human-like intelligence. They lack self-awareness, consciousness, and genuine intelligence to match human intelligence, and they cannot think for themselves. They perform the task they are designed to do and cannot perform anything beyond what they are programmed to do. AI can provide weather updates but cannot answer a question that is beyond the intelligence it is designed to operate and the dataset it has available. Sometimes machines can be made of many Narrow AI to perform more complex operations like driving a car. There are many benefits to this type of AI, as it is used to improve efficiency and accuracy.

Theories of human and animal intelligence are developed, and they are tested by building working models in software programs or robots. For Weak AI, these models are tools for understanding the mind.

General or Strong AI

According to Joe Carter, "General AI (or "strong AI") is the capability of a machine to perform many or all of the intellectual tasks a human can do, including the ability to understand the context and make judgments based on it. This type of AI currently does not exist outside the realm of science fiction, though it is the ultimate goal of many AI researchers."[3] Whether it is even possible to achieve general AI is currently unknown, and some researchers claim that it will be possible to have this type of AI. If it is achieved, such machines would likely not possess sentience (i.e., the ability to perceive one's environment and experience sensations such as pain and suffering, or pleasure and comfort). Currently, machines can process data faster than humans, but they cannot think abstractly, strategize, and tap thoughts and memories to make informed decisions or come up with creative ideas. This limitation makes machine intelligence inferior to the abilities humans possess. General AI is expected to be able to reason, solve problems, make judgments under uncertainty, plan, learn, integrate prior knowledge in decision-making, and be innovative, imaginative, and creative. For machines to achieve real human-like intelligence, they will need to be capable of experiencing consciousness. For Strong AI, the model has to be a mind.

Super AI

Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom defines superintelligence as "any intellect that greatly exceeds the cognitive performance of humans in virtually all domains of interest."[4] This type of AI is supposed to surpass human intelligence in all aspects — from creativity to general wisdom, to problem-solving. These machines should be capable of exhibiting intelligence that is not seen in any humans. It is the type of AI that many people are worried about and the type of AI that people like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking think will lead to the extinction of the human race.[5] This type of AI does not exist today, but researchers predict it is possible in the future.


[1] Noah Berlatsky, ed., Artificial Intelligence, Opposing Viewpoints Series (Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2011), 14.

[2]Joe Carter, “The FAQs: What Christians Should Know About Artificial Intelligence,” The Gospel Coalition, April 18, 2019, accessed October 25, 2019,

[3] Carter, “The FAQs: What Christians Should Know About Artificial Intelligence.”

[4] Tannya D. Jajal, “Distinguishing between Narrow AI, General AI and Super AI,” Medium, May 21, 2018, accessed October 25, 2019,

[5] Karphal, “Stephen Hawking Says AI. Could Be Worst Event in the History of Our Civilization.

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