It’s no surprise that the vast majority of people claim to understand what Artificial Intelligence is. Popular culture has been a key driver of this coupled with the recent debates on the potential benefits and threats of AI, and the visible successes of Google, Facebook and Apple.
However, there is a disconnect between what the latter have achieved and the portrayal in cinema and literature. Almost all modern AI is specifically focused on particular tasks. This is known as Artificial Narrow Intelligence. It is very effective in doing one thing, but completely useless at anything else. Imagine asking Siri to drive your car for you and you’ll get an understanding of how narrow the intelligence is.
By contrast, AI in movies or even that being discussed as an existential threat is Artificial General Intelligence. Such AGIs would be capable of independent action, motivation and autonomy. This type of AI does not exist to any great extent today and in fact seems to be as far away as when Alan Turing wrote about it over 60 years ago.
There is a good chance that the survey respondents are mistaken in their interpretation of Artificial Intelligence. Unfortunately, this mistake may turn into disillusionment when they find out just how far we have to go before there is a real HAL 9000.