What Is The Difference Between Weak (Narrow) And Strong (General) Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

Although artificial intelligence (AI) was once a rare concept, most people experience AI in their daily lives. From digital personal assistants such as Alexa and Google Home to driving directions and recommendations, artificial intelligence is no longer an idea only seen in science fiction books and movies.

While most individuals understand AI is when machines complete higher-level functions such as recognizing speech and making decisions as humans can, not everyone might understand that there is a distinction between weak AI and strong AI. So, let’s take a look at the differences between weak, also known as narrow AI, and strong or general AI.

Weak (Narrow) AI

The artificial intelligence that we now see in our daily lives is what we refer to as weak (narrow AI). It’s the only artificial intelligence that exists today. It’s called weak because it has limited functionality. The AI algorithms are built to accomplish specific tasks rather than possess full cognitive abilities like the human brain. Weak AI illustrates that intelligent behavior can be modeled. Examples of weak AI include Siri, Alexa, and Google search.

Weak AI is in action when there can be a programmed response such as when AI runs a chess program. These algorithms will process data to find things they know and then classify based on training/programming. They can’t veer off the programmed path.

Weak AI has changed many aspects of business and our lifestyles by being able to solve or complete tasks much quicker or better than humans can. It’s what powers chatbots and recommendation engines on streaming services. Weak AI can also discover patterns in volumes of data to help diagnose disease and develop treatments. It’s certainly been a transformative technology thus far. 

Strong (General) AI

Strong or general artificial intelligence at this point is only theoretical. It’s when machines develop consciousness and decision-making on par (or better) than humans. When strong AI is achieved, the machines won’t rely on human programming to be able to think or accomplish tasks. This is the AI imagined in sci-fi stories such as “I-Robot” and “The Terminator.”

Additionally, machines with strong AI will be able to exhibit self-awareness and emotions. Ultimately, the goal with general AI is a machine that has intelligence in true human form.

Weak AI and Strong AI Comparison

When you want to distinguish between types of artificial intelligence, it’s good to look at what the technology can do. Simply, if the technology is good at specific actions, it’s weak AI. If it operates like a human and isn’t bound to complete one specific task, it’s strong AI. Here are a few other ways to distinguish between weak and general AI:

Definition. . .

·      Weak AI models intelligent human behavior, which allows machines to solve complex problems.

·      General AI is currently hypothetical, but when or if it’s realized, machines would have full human cognitive abilities.

Purpose. . .

·      Narrow AI is programmed to operate within a set of pre-defined functions that the programming is taught to complete or solve.

·      Strong AI will have a mind of its own to be able to accomplish any type of task its “mind” can envision. 

Awareness. . .

·      Weak AI does not achieve self-awareness.

·      Strong AI will be advanced enough to be considered truly intelligent and fully self-aware.

Data processing. . .

·      Narrow AI classifies data.

·      General AI uses clustering and association.

Once (if ever) artificial intelligence gets to the point where machines can think and carry out decision-making and tasks without human involvement, it will be designated as general or strong AI. Until then, weak AI, algorithms programmed to give machines the capability to help us complete tasks faster and more effectively, will continue to transform the way we live, work and play.

And once strong AI is achieved, the next milestone will be super AI. Super AI is when machines surpass human intelligence. Imagine a machine that beats human intelligence in all subjects, from science and math to language, literature, and creative arts. This is the level that feeds the concern that machines might be capable of overthrowing the human race.

Luckily, super AI is entirely speculation at this point. There’s no guarantee when and even if strong AI, let alone super AI will be possible. Hopefully, if we do get to the point of super AI, there will be safeguards in place to avoid the dire predictions shared in movies and literature about the future where machines rule. 

Do you think we will ever get to general or even super AI? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

AI is going to impact businesses of all shapes and sizes across all industries. Discover how to prepare your organization for an AI-driven world in my new book, The Intelligence Revolution: Transforming Your Business With AI.

About The Author

Bernard Marr is an internationally best-selling author, popular keynote speaker, futurist, and a strategic business & technology advisor to governments and companies. He helps organizations improve their business performance, use data more intelligently, and understand the implications of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, blockchains, and the Internet of Things.

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