1 The Basics of AI

The Basics of AI

Artificial intelligence is now an integral part of our lives but what is it exactly? 

AI is not a “thing”, it isn’t a computer nor a machine. 

AI is the ability of a machine to display human-like capabilities such as reasoning, learning, planning and creativity. AI systems are capable of adapting their behaviour to a certain degree by analysing the effects of previous actions and working autonomously.

Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and deep learning, these three terms are often used interchangeably, but they do not quite refer to the same things.

Let us start with the concept of artificial intelligence in which machines are able to imitate intelligent human behavior. The main goal of Artificial Intelligence is to develop self-reliant machines that can think and act like humans.  There are different types of AI, from reactive machines that only react and have no memories to self-awareness AI that understand its own internal state and react appropriately to human feelings.

We can distinguish three types of AI:

Where artificial narrow intelligence (ANI) is already being used in a wide range of applications, artificial general intelligence (AGI) and artificial super intelligence (ASI) is not yet attained.  Shouting at Google maps because the planner is not aware of the roadworks, for example, will not make the directions change. 


Then there is Machine Learning, this is a subset of artificial intelligence. Machine learning helps developing  AI-driven applications.

Machine learning accesses vast amounts of structured data and learns from it to predict the future. It learns from the data by using multiple algorithms and techniques and allows software applications to become more accurate at predicting outcomes without being explicitly programmed to do so.  It is machine learning that gives AI the ability to learn. This is done by using algorithms to discover patterns and generate insights from the data they are exposed to. 

E.g.  long term weather forecast

Deep Learning, in turn, is a subset of machine learning that uses huge amounts of data and complex algorithms to train a model. 

Deep learning deals with algorithms inspired by the structure and function of the human brain. The algorithms can work with an enormous amount of both structured and unstructured data. It’s core concept lies in artificial neural networks, which enable machines to make decisions. Deep learning provides AI with the ability to mimic a human brain’s neural network. It can make sense of patterns, noise, and sources of confusion in the data.

Scientists and critics do not know how fast or to what extent AI will evolve. Today, it is hard to imagine life without AI. But will the day come when AI will outsmart us all? Who knows? To quote Stephen Hawking: “AI is likely to be either the best or worst thing to happen to humanity”.

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Thing 1 Assignment

Join the discussion. Introduce yourself and answer the following questions; What is the most exciting thing about the prospect of using AI in the classroom? What are you most concerned about?


Practical Applications and Resources


See the AI@School Toolkit and Curriculum for lots of practical activities and resources.

10 Things about AI
Thing 1 - Basics 10%