As with most ‘latest things’, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made way in the media for the latest ‘latest thing’. But it hasn’t gone away, nor is it ever likely to do so.

In fact, the use and functionality of AI has been increasing by leaps and bounds behind the scenes. You can actually get a sensible reply now when you speak to your smartphone, computer or other gadget, but does that qualify as intelligence?

Without immersing ourselves in semantics, can something be considered to have intelligence without also being sentient? Without having some means of sensing the real world rather than just being told about it? Possibly not.

I mentioned digital assistants being able to make sense of the spoken word and then answering in a coherent way. Considering the processes involved, that is an incredible achievement.

It requires the conversion from analogue speech to digital data, recognition of what individual spoken words mean, understanding what they mean when put together in that particular sentence, what the most suitable answer should be and then conversion back to analogue sound so we can hear it. A number of different aspects of AI are being used in this process.

That’s the thing about AI. It isn’t just robots which look sufficiently human to be spooky, or computers that can beat world masters at chess or Go.

AI is any way that a computer can be used to come to a conclusion by its own means of deduction. To do this, a computer has to be given a series of rules or be given the instructions to make up its own rules.

Once that has been done, the computer may continue to reach conclusions until it is told to stop or until it has reached a previously defined goal, like answering a specific question.

Just like a human, the more input it gets, the more accurate its conclusions are likely to be. However, exactly the same as humans, corrupted or inaccurate input will skew the accuracy of the conclusion. Or in English, make mistakes.

Except in research labs, AI is not yet truly intelligent, our regular contact with AI is in a relatively simple form. High end AI is already shaping our world for the better by reaching remarkable conclusions that humans wouldn’t necessarily have. Used in this way AI, is an enormous force for good.