What is AI ?

I’m learning a subject called “AI”. You’ve probably heard of it – Artificial Intelligence.

Sounds neat, and I was hoping it could help me understand how to make a good AI for my old “Age of Empires II” game. The default AI was good, but back in the day, I remember downloading many mods that replaced the stock AI with something more .. “humane”. At least, that was what the developers called it.

Me, I couldn’t really tell the difference. You see, either way, I got trounced in EVERY match! ;P

So, why my interest in making an AI? Well, I was hoping to modify my opponents behaviour, so that I could win a match instead. Sure, one idea is to just “stop” my opponent, but where’s the fun in that? If nothing else, I wanted to “pretend” that I beat the computer. .. But, my coding skills were so abysmal that I really didn’t understand a word of it.

And so, with such thoughts in mind, I began to formally learn A.I. Our professor recommended this book – “Artificial Intelligence” by Elaine Rich. I ended up buying a copy and it’s interesting reading – to say the least!

The first chapter discusses WHAT AI is. And what I came up with, is that it’s really confusing! In a way, it’s disturbing that the book can’t define what “AI” is. So far I’ve come across 2 definitions,

Artificial Intelligence is the study of how to make computers do things which, at the moment, people do better

and here’s the other one,

We are forced to conclude that the question of whether a machine has intelligence or can think is too nebulous to answer precisely. But it is often possible to construct a computer program that meets some performance standard for a particular task.

What the heck is THAT? 30+ years of research into AI and we still haven’t come up with a decent definition of the field? If it weren’t for the fact that I see AI in my games so often, I would demand that this course be restricted to something above my Master’s level.

Hmm… I wonder, what does wikipedia say about AI? Let me take a look,

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the intelligence of machines and the branch of computer science that aims to create it. AI textbooks define the field as “the study and design of intelligent agents”where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chances of success.

… that is even more convoluted that I expected. 😦

What I find most sad, is that, I like some of the other chapters in the book. Especially the ones that deal with problem-solving techniques. I’m tempted to make up my own definition at this point, but I’d rather not add to the mess. But I still want to describe my thoughts on what AI is. Or isn’t.  … I think this snippet (again, taken from same book) explains my opinions well,

The feeling of intelligence is a mirage, if you achieve it, it ceases to make you feel so. As somebody has aptly put it – AI is Artificial Intelligence till it is achieved; after which the acronym reduces to Already Implemented!