Types of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Abstract image representing on type of artificial intelligence.

From the voice-enabled smart assistant on your mobile phone to the self-driving car that's inching closer to becoming a mainstream reality, artificial intelligence functions in many forms around us already. Even so, many might still think that AI is all about robots. While that’s partly true, there is so much more to AI than just robotics. 

In this guide, we’ll show you more about the different types of AI that exist today.

The 7 Types of AI

At its core, artificial intelligence (AI) is about creating intelligent machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions, but what adds to the complexity and intrigue of AI is its vastness of potential. It's not just a standalone concept but an “umbrella term” that covers a wide range of technologies and capabilities.

Artificial intelligence technologies can be dissected into two significant categories based on their capabilities and functionalities. The capability-based classification includes narrow AI, general AI, and super AI. On the other hand, the functionality-based perspective differentiates AI into reactive machines, limited memory AI, theory of mind AI, and self-aware AI.

Understanding these different types of AI not only helps in clarifying the varied capabilities and potentials of AI but also demystifies the common misconceptions surrounding it. Let’s take a closer look at each type and each classification in greater detail.

1. Artificial Narrow Intelligence (Weak AI)

The most prevalent type of AI in today's technological landscape is artificial narrow intelligence (ANI), also referred to as weak AI. Designed to perform narrowly defined tasks, this form of AI operates under a limited pre-defined range. This would include personal assistants like Amazon's Alexa listening and responding to your commands or recommendation algorithms used by Netflix to suggest what you should watch next.

That being said, ANI has limitations. Despite how “intelligent” these systems may seem, they operate under strict confines and cannot “understand” or learn anything that falls outside their input field.

2. Artificial General Intelligence

The next level in the AI hierarchy is artificial general intelligence (AGI). Often considered the “holy grail” of AI, AGI refers to systems that possess the ability to understand, learn, and apply knowledge across different contexts, much like a human being. While ANI paves the way for machines to become really good at specific tasks, AGI envisions a future where machines can turn out to be a “jack of all trades” and capable of the same tasks and functions as humans are capable of today.

Creating an AGI is no small feat, though. It's a step ahead in complexity compared to what we have now since it involves replicating all intellectual abilities that a human possesses. As ambitious as it is, we’re likely still some ways off from witnessing a fully developed AGI.

3. Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI)

The apex of AI evolution, as per current theoretical understanding, is artificial super intelligence (ASI). ASI goes beyond replicating human intelligence as it promises to surpass human abilities and become the most intelligent species on the planet.

While talking about ASI is an interesting peek into a possible future where machines could outperform us in virtually every economically valuable type of work, it's important to remember that ASI is purely speculative as of now and a subject of debate within AI circles.

4. Reactive Machines

Now, we’re getting into the functionality-based perspective of the types of artificial intelligence, the most basic of which is reactive machines. These are systems with no memory or data storage capabilities. They are programmed to react to specific types of inputs in pre-defined ways. Deep Blue, the IBM chess program that defeated world champion Garry Kasparov, is an example of this type.

5. Limited Memory

Moving even further up the functionality ladder is limited memory AI. These machines go one step further than reactive machines by possessing the ability to learn from historical data. This means the more they interact with their environment and carry out tasks, the better they become.

Much of our current AI applications, from autonomous vehicles to chatbots that enrich customer service experiences, rely on limited memory AI. They continuously learn from the data they are exposed to and incrementally enhance their performance.

6. Theory of Mind AI

Another fascinating type of AI that’s still mainly in the conceptual stage is theory of mind AI. This represents a more advanced level of machine intelligence where AI machines can understand emotions and beliefs as well as engage in social interactions just like humans. Although it’s not fully realized, theory of mind AI holds great potential in improving human-to-computer interactions.

7. Self-Aware AI

Perhaps the most advanced and speculative form of AI is self-aware AI. As the name suggests, self-aware AI would imply systems that have evolved to be conscious and cognizant entities. These machines would not just understand and reciprocate human emotions, but they would also have emotions, needs, and beliefs of their own.

Although some might find it thrilling to envision the possibilities of such an AI, it's worth noting that we're still far from actualizing a self-aware AI. Currently, it remains within the realm of science fiction and conceptual hypothesis.

AI Types in Entrepreneurship

Artificial intelligence can be a game-changing opportunity for startups and entrepreneurs in nearly every industry and marketplace out there today. It can automate tasks, provide insights from data, enhance customer experiences, and more. Knowing the types of AI and how they can be implemented in a business context is critical for entrepreneurs looking to leverage this technology. 

For instance, artificial narrow intelligence (ANI) can be used in automating specific tasks like customer service through chatbots or product recommendations based on image recognition.

For startups with the goal of implementing AI at a more sophisticated level, understanding the concept of artificial general intelligence (AGI) and the path towards this type of AI in the future is important. This type of AI, which is still in the development stage, aims to perform tasks just as a human would, learning from different contexts and applying knowledge in a variety of situations. There’s no question that the potential applications of AGI in business are countless, from HR management to strategic decision-making.

Artificial Superintelligence (ASI), while still speculative, represents the epitome of AI's potential to be able to outperform humans in virtually any task. As entrepreneurs and business owners, we must consistently be aware of where AI advancements and breakthroughs are currently at because of its possible advantages, but also for its potential ethical and existential issues.

Entrepreneurs Utilizing AI in the Real World

With the rise of AI, entrepreneurs and startup founders are harnessing its potential to streamline operations and engage with their audiences on a greater level. Tools such as ChatGPT and Notion AI are helping founders with content creation, ranging from formulating ideas to drafting content briefs. 

AI's application in entrepreneurship isn’t just limited to content creation, however, and its benefits permeate a wide variety of different aspects of business. Midjourney AI, for example, can help boost the social media marketing efforts of startups by generating stunning images related to the topics being published about or discussed, which attracts user engagement. This has proven significantly beneficial for businesses trying to establish a strong digital footprint and grow their brand. 

Automation of routine tasks such as research, data entry, and basic content creation with AI tools like Zapier and Open AI also helps free up time for entrepreneurs to invest in more strategic work. 

Every startup founder should keep in mind that experimentation with different AI tools can lead to the development of workflows that are “custom-tailored” to enhance the productivity of their business. Even more so, AI tools are increasingly gaining the ability to learn from your style and help you generate more personalized outputs in the future, and also implementing “fine-tuning” capabilities, letting you personalize and customize outputs in even greater detail.

Getting Started With AI

If you’re an entrepreneur or startup founder interested in exploring the power of AI for your businesses, there’s no shortage of helpful resources and platforms available. 

To learn about the technical details, online course providers like Coursera and Udacity offer comprehensive classes on artificial intelligence that cater to different levels of proficiency. These courses cover the different aspects of AI, such as machine learning, natural language processing, neural networks, and deep learning.

Communities such as Towards Data Science and platforms like Kaggle also offer great learning opportunities. They serve as platforms where aspiring AI enthusiasts can engage in relevant discussions, participate in competitions, and learn from the experiences of AI professionals in diverse fields. 

Going even further, tools like H2O.ai and RapidMiner can also be incredibly useful for startups venturing into AI by allowing startups to build predictive models without needing a background in programming. 

By leveraging these resources, never giving up on learning, and always letting their curiosity abound, entrepreneurs can harness the true potential of different AI options for their startups.