What Is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science that deals with the creation of machines capable of carrying out tasks which, if done by humans, would require intelligence. Thus, it is about giving machines the ability to reason and act in an intelligent manner.

AI development began as soon as electronic computers were invented. Its first period started in the 1950s and lasted until the 1970s. During this phase there was less funding available for academic research than during the second one, so only a few research groups pursued AI-related projects. However, some significant results were obtained at that time: among them are ELIZA (a computer program capable of simulating conversation), DENDRAL (which could analyze chemical compounds) and the first chess program.

The second period, which started in the 1980s and is still ongoing, is much more prolific and has received great funding from governments and private companies. The major achievements of this phase include: PARRY (a simulation of a paranoid patient), MYCIN (used to diagnose patients’ blood samples) and PROSPECTOR (that recognized minerals based on satellite images).

Artificial intelligence was later used for creating better search engines such as Google; augmented reality programs like MSN Search; computer games with smarter enemies; online customer service chatbots; automatic trading systems; and self-driving cars. It has also been used to make weather forecasts.

The most successful area in AI at present is machine learning, which allows computers to learn by themselves without being programmed. Its main focuses are neural networks and deep learning.

Deep learning is a type of machine learning made up of algorithms that permit software applications to train themselves to perform tasks by analyzing data presented to them. They do not need someone to program the rules for performing each task; instead, they can develop their own algorithm through training. Google Translate is one service that uses this technology.

Neural networks are computing systems modeled after the human brain, in which information takes the form of interconnected layers (neurons) capable of processing information using several layers simultaneously. There exist two types: feedforward (with connections flowing in only one direction) and feedback (where there are loops between the layers).

Google Brain is an AI project of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., which was created to develop deep learning and other machine-learning algorithms. The aim of this project is to make better products and improve people’s lives.

Machine learning and deep learning are versatile technologies with a broad range of applications: they can be used for creating chatbots; enhancing images; voice recognition; automatic detection of fraud; natural language processing (which makes it possible to analyze text as humans do); translation between various languages both online and offline; video games’ intelligent personalization, etc. These are just some examples among many others that could be mentioned.

Types of Artificial Intelligence

Machine learning, deep learning and neural networks are well-known types of AI. However, there are many others whose names are less familiar to the general public:

  • Semantic analysis refers to machine reading comprehension. It is a technology for understanding not only sentences but also whole paragraphs written in natural language. The aim is for computers to process texts as humans do, that is by taking into consideration context and concepts rather than just words. For example, it makes it possible for machines to analyze product reviews without being told which ones are positive or negative.
  • Fuzzy logic deals with reasoning under uncertainty (fuzzy set theory). This means making decisions based on vague information so that its exact value cannot be defined precisely or expressed numerically. With fuzzy logic, it is possible to make a decision based on nonverbal data such as “very cold”, “too cold” or “cold”.
  • Swarm intelligence comes from the collective behavior of decentralized and self-organized systems, natural or artificial. The most successful example of this type of technology is ant colony optimization (ACO), which imitates how ants find food sources under crowded conditions.
  • Swarm algorithms have been used in distributed computing, logistics and transportation problems, finding optimal paths for traveling groups and producing high-quality results in a more efficient way than with traditional methods.
  • Automated reasoning is a branch of applied logic that deals with formal deduction systems. It allows machines to infer new conclusions from existing knowledge and facts and to use this information in making decisions.
  • Game theory is a branch of mathematics that applies the mathematical concepts of game and strategy, particularly those of non-cooperative games, to model real world situations in which decision-making depends on the actions of others. For example, it could be used for finding strategies to guarantee broadband connection quality even when there are many users trying to access the Internet at the same time. This involves predicting moves made by other players (e.g., network providers or subscribers) based on their interests and preferences.

Artificial intelligence has numerous applications in areas such as education, medicine, transport and logistics, entertainment, household appliances/home automation… Some examples include:

  • Self-driving cars: These use a combination of radar, video cameras, lasers and navigation technology to recognize their surroundings and stay on the right path. They have already been tested in Europe, the USA and Canada. Since 2016, self-driving buses for public transport have been used in Helsinki (Finland), Lausanne (Switzerland) and Rotterdam (The Netherlands).
  • Electronic teachers: Virtual artificial intelligence tutors can diagnose learning problems more accurately than human teachers. Some of them even act like friends; they are helpful, make students believe they care about them… Artificial intelligence has also become indispensable for creating adaptive educational programs that cater to learners’ individual needs.

Many university education courses already rely on virtual assistants to enhance students’ learning experience.

  • Medicine: Computers are involved in diagnosing illnesses, evaluating the risks of taking certain drugs, performing surgery and managing patients’ condition. Artificial intelligence has helped provide better care for more people by speeding up diagnosis processes and increasing the efficiency of medical staff. For example, IBM’s Watson is already used in oncology (for cancer treatment) and dermatology (to identify skin pathologies).
  • Autonomous robots: They are able to do tasks without human intervention or control. The first generation includes unmanned aerial vehicles that can perform surveillance missions or deliver cargo anywhere in the world. Nowadays they also have numerous other applications, including agriculture, forestry, mining, security…


intelligence is one of the most revolutionary technologies, as it allows us to augment our abilities and provide better service. The best example is GPS technology, which would be useless without a map or a turn-by-turn route planner. In fact, it integrates all the other technologies mentioned in this article into a single system that provides great support for people’s daily lives.