This Guest paper was first published on the PlanningPlanet blog on January 12, 2018 and is copyright to Dr. Dan Patterson, PMP, 2018
Published here
April 2018.

Introduction | What Exactly is Artificial Intelligence?
The Problem with Project Planning Today | AI Categories | Current Approaches to ANI
Neural Networks | Which AI Approach is Best for Helping with Project Planning?
Should We Embrace or Avoid AI in Planning?

What Exactly is Artificial Intelligence?

There are many definitions of Artificial Intelligence (AI). In fact, a Google search today returns around 1.18 billion results. One of the funniest definitions I have run across is "AI is whatever hasn't been done yet" — now there's a vague and unhelpful answer!

One of the more useful definitions I have found is:

"AI is the ability of a computer program or a machine to think and learn. In general use, the term 'artificial intelligence' means a machine which mimics human cognition."

So, the crux of AI seems to be machines that are able to think and learn.

The way humans think is through what is called cognition (stems from the Latin for "know" or "recognize"). It is the scientific word for a thought process i.e., the mental action of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought and experience. The way humans learn is through either observational or associative means.

Observational learning is watching others' behavior, for example, watching your parent drive a car, where you learn from watching which levers and switches they push as they drive along. Associative learning, on the other hand, is learning by establishing connections between events. You know there will be thunder when you see a lightning strike.

Humans make decisions based on thought and learning. We make sound or good decisions based on observational reasoning as well as associative patterns. We also sometimes make bad decisions that we can learn from to make us smarter the next time around. So, our thought process gets smarter the more we learn.

If a machine can acquire knowledge and understand or recognize it, then it too can start to make informed (and hopefully good) decisions for me. I believe AI is really all about a machine being able to make an informed decision that is a sound one. It is a decision support system (DSS) that helps me make a better decision faster than I could have otherwise.

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