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What is artificial intelligence and how does it work?
Machine Learning (Santosh Shinde)

What is artificial intelligence and how does it work?

Learn everything you need to know about artificial intelligence from Algorithmia.

Artificial intelligence is the type of computer science that attempts to replicate human intelligence with computers. It is often portrayed to those who don’t understand it as intelligent robots taking over the earth. But in reality, that is not an accurate depiction of artificial intelligence at all. 

It’s important for everyone to understand what AI really is and how the average technology consumer uses AI in their daily lives.

What is artificial intelligence?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence programmed into machines or computers, which includes machine learning, deep learning, and other subsets. It refers to the computer science category that seeks to mimic functions of human intelligence within computer systems. To people outside the world of computer science, this may sound threatening, as if human intelligence could be replaced by machines. But this is far from what AI is truly used for. 

AI is used to improve our daily lives by making certain processes more efficient by allowing a computer to do fairly complicated tasks automatically. Examples of this are the automatic language translation apps that can translate speech in one language into text in another language or using machine learning algorithms to make market research more efficient.

How does artificial intelligence work?

Artificial intelligence works by using algorithms along with constraints and other elements that help gear models toward thinking, perception, and action. AI can be powered by deep learning or machine learning, or it can be powered by simpler processes of rules. The most basic artificial intelligence isn’t as complicated as it sounds. It can be a computer programmed to behave in a certain way or give certain outputs based on certain rules. 

Artificial intelligence use cases examples

There are many ways in which the average technology consumer interacts with artificial intelligence technologies in their daily lives, but most people don’t realize what technologies actually use AI. Here are a few examples of artificial intelligence technologies that many people encounter in their lives.

Chat bots

If you’ve ever come across a chat bot on a website or social media messenger, it is powered by AI. Chat bots are one of the more simple examples of AI, since they are simply coded to send messages based on rules about how they should interact with users. Sort of an “if this, then that” type of programming. 

Smart assistants

Siri, Alexa, and all the other smart assistants are examples of artificial intelligence. They understand what users say to them and can follow directions and respond accordingly. These are like the next level of chat bots, since they use speech recognition and are connected to larger databases of information such as search engines.

Disease mapping and prediction

Epidemiologists have always worked to try to understand how diseases spread in order to be able to predict and hopefully avoid them. Artificial intelligence is making this easier. This is an example where it’s easy to see how artificial intelligence simply allows for quicker progress on data analysis and prediction modeling than humans could do alone. 


Artificial intelligence has the ability to recognize images and detect patterns, trends, and anomalies in images. This function of AI has been applied to healthcare, since doctors have always used their human eye to detect anomalies in X-rays, MRIs, and other medical imaging. Artificial intelligence for healthcare can detect health issues such as tumors and cancers earlier and more accurately than the human eye can.

Spam filters

Everyone who uses email knows about spam filters. Email inboxes are equipped with filters that send spam emails to a separate folder so they don’t clutter users’ inbox with useless messages. Spam filters also exist for phone calls, to filter out scammers and other spam phone calls. AI powers these spam filters by using previous knowledge of what spam emails or phone calls look like from a data perspective, and filtering out the ones that match.

Recommendation engines

The recommendation engines on Netflix and Spotify are some of the most well known. They use data about which shows you’ve previously watched or songs you’ve previously listened to in order to recommend other shows you should watch or songs you should listen to. These are only a couple examples. Recommendation engines also exist in social media platforms to recommend people you should connect to or to show you content you might like.

Search engines

Search engines have such huge databases that the only way they are able to sort through all of their potential results to show you the best results for your search is with AI. Search engine algorithms are some of the best examples of robust algorithms out there. For example, Google is said to use something like 200 data points to determine where each result ranks on each results page. With billions of pages in their database, that is a lot of data running through their algorithm with every query.

Self driving cars

Although fully self driving cars aren’t widely available yet, they are well in the works with multiple companies, and some self-driving features are already available in cars today. Companies like Google and Uber are vying to be the first to develop a consumer-ready self driving car, but you can already buy cars with sensors that alert you to close objects, break automatically, and can parallel park themselves. Artificial intelligence is what allows all of this to be possible, and just like how AI can detect cancer better than the human eye, self-driving cars can probably drive better than a lot of humans too. 

Image recognition

Image recognition includes the previous healthcare example, but there are many other applications of image recognition as well. Facial recognition is a subset of image recognition, and it’s how many people unlock their smartphones today. Image recognition also powers filters on social media sites that detect inappropriate content. 

Language translation

Many people who have a smartphone have used a language translation app at some point. There are apps that allow users to speak into them in one language and play their message back in a different language. This incorporates speech recognition, language detection, and natural language processing, which are both types of AI.

Why is artificial intelligence important?

Artificial intelligence allows humans to be more intelligent by helping us analyze, learn from, and act on information quicker than we could without technology. Carrying a smartphone means we have seemingly limitless information at our fingertips, along with applications that give us abilities like real time language translation or a smart assistant that can send messages for us on voice command.

AI allows us the same accuracies and efficiencies that robotic automation allows to manufacturing, but with information work rather than physical work. It automates repetitive learning on human command, and does it with incredible accuracy. Artificial intelligence is helping advance technologies that keep us safe such as detecting cancer and other health issues and driving cars safer than a distracted human can. 

From a business perspective, AI can be used for technologies that improve customer experience or to predict customer retention and churn rates to help understand the quality of customer experience. AI can predict financials quicker and more accurately than humans, so that companies can forecast and plan accordingly to stay profitable. The possibilities are endless. 

Artificial intelligence provides value to everyone from consumers to enterprises. It is not taking over the world, but it is improving our world. 


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