Defining AI

Are you curious about AI but don’t know who to ask or where to start? We wrote a guide on “A Practical Guide to Understanding AI” in simple language with easy-to-grasp definitions and examples, along with some practical considerations on how to move forward.

To give you a feel for what this guide is all about, here is the first chapter on “Defining AI.” Click here to access the full guide. 

Q: So what is AI?

A: Well, it depends on who you ask.

That’s not intended to be evasive. The fact is, it really does come down to who you ask, which is why we went asking in the first place. At Twisthink, we have our own definition of artificial intelligence (AI), this application that is part of a bigger mega-trend known as Digital Transformation and includes the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Artificial Internet of Things (AIoT), a combination of AI and IoT technologies. But we wanted to know what preconceived ideas people had about AI and its existing or potential impact on their work. Here’s some of what we heard and the percentage of people we surveyed who aligned with each sentiment:

  • AI is the ability for a computer to think/learn on its own and analyze data (25%)
  • AI is the simulation of human intelligence by a computer (17%)

  • AI is robotics/digital imaging to emulate human actions and responses (7%)

  • AI makes things quicker, faster, more automated, and ultimately easier (9%)

  • AI is performance by machines through math modeling with little coding  (6%)

Here’s how we define AI: The ability for machines to continuously perceive a context, infer meaning from it, and then respond within that context. 

There are some important words in this definition that benefit from a bit more scrutiny to help you fully grasp and become comfortable with AI in your business. 

THE “ABILITY” OF MACHINES: A machine can only do what we humans program it to do. Otherwise, it’s just hardware.

CONTINUOUSLY: While the concept of “the work” never stops, people do. We have to recharge to be productive. We can’t be continuously on–but machines can. AI helps businesses avoid going idle because machines can provide ongoing or continuous value to the business or its customers.

CONTEXT: AI currently only works in the context for which it was built.

MEANING: This can be a scary word. What we mean by meaning is the ability to take loads of data, recognize patterns and, as programmed by way of an algorithm, respond accordingly to those patterns. The more the algorithm does this, the smarter it becomes with regard to its programmed context. This is what is known as machine learning.

Now that you’re grounded in what AI is, let’s also look at what AI is not:

  • It is not capable of independent thinking or creative problem solving. 
  • It is not a solution in search of problems.
  • It is not a silver bullet.
  • It is not even the next best thing that’s here today and gone tomorrow. 

AI is valuable only when humans understand how it can help address real-world challenges– whether that’s on the factory floor, in the field, directly with customers, or anywhere else in the business landscape.

And that is why you are so vital.

Think of it this way: AI is shorthand for artificial intelligence. But it could just as easily stand for automated insights.

Insights come from an understanding of your consumers’ pain points, as well as their hopes and desires. These insights are critical to developing new solutions and providing value to customers, while also creating value for your business.

By leveraging insights, you can think more practically about AI and ask:

  • “Is there a better way to make meaning of massive amounts of data?” (There is.)
  • “Might these ongoing insights help me and my team make better informed decision?” (We think so.)
  • “Could that data be converted into valuable insights and could it be automated for our benefit?” (It can.) 


Check out the next 9 chapters:

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