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The A-Z of how artificial intelligence is changing the world

Artificial intelligence can no longer be considered a technology of the future – it is already shaping our everyday lives. Read BBC's guide to understanding the minds of machines. a is for… artificial intelligence Since the early days of computers, scientists have strived to create machines that can rival humans in their ability to think, reason and learn – in other words, artificial intelligence. While today’s AI systems still fall short of that goal, they are starting to perform as well as, and sometimes better than, their creators at certain tasks. Thanks to new techniques that allow machines to learn from enormous sets of data, AI has taken massive leaps forward. AI is starting to move out of research labs and into the real world. It is having an impact on our lives. There can be little doubt that we are entering the age of artificial intelligence. b is for… bias As AI enters the real world by assessing loan applications, informing courtroom decisions or helping to identify patients who should receive treatment, so too does one of its most fundamental flaws: bias. Algorithms are only as good as the code that governs them and the data used to teach them. Each can carry the watermark of our own preconceptions. Facial recognition software can misclassify black faces or fail to identify women, criminal profiling algorithms have ranked non-whites as higher risk and recruitment tools have scored women lower than men. But with these challenges, there has been mounting pressure on technology giants to fix them. c is for… chatbots These talkative machines use the power of two branches of AI, natural language processing and natural language generation, to interact with human users. They appear on social media feeds, customer service pages and websites to provide conversation, advice and companionship – and they are transforming the way we interact with organisations including utilities companies, adult websites, pizza delivery firms, online stores, banks and even governments.

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