Weak artificial intelligence (weak AI), also known as narrow AI, is artificial intelligence that is focused on one narrow task 1. Weak AI is defined in contrast to either Strong AI, sentience and mind) or AGI (a machine with the ability to apply intelligence to any problem, rather than just one specific problem). All currently existing systems considered artificial intelligence of any sort are weak AI.
Siri is a good example of narrow intelligence. Siri operates within a limited pre-defined range, there is no genuine intelligence, no self-awareness, no life despite being a sophisticated example of weak AI. In Forbes (2011), Ted Greenwald wrote: "The iPhone/Siri marriage represents the arrival of hybrid AI, combining several narrow AI techniques plus access to massive data in the cloud."2 AI researcher Ben Goertzel, on his blog in 2010, stated Siri was "VERY narrow and brittle" evidenced by annoying results if you ask questions outside the limits of the application 3.
Some commentators think weak AI could be dangerous. In 2013 George Dvorsky stated via io9: "Narrow AI could knock out our electric grid, damage nuclear power plants, cause a global-scale economic collapse, misdirect autonomous vehicles and robots..."4. The Stanford Center for Internet and Society, in the following quote, contrasts strong AI with weak AI regarding the growth of narrow AI presenting "real issues
Weak or "narrow" AI, in contrast, is a present-day reality. Software controls many facets of daily life and, in some cases, this control presents real issues. One example is the May 2010 "flash crash" that caused a temporary but enormous dip in the market5.
- — Ryan Calo, Center for Internet and Society, Stanford Law School, 30 August 2011.
The following two excerpts from Singularity Hub summarise weak-narrow AI:
- When you call the bank and talk to an automated voice you are probably talking to an AI...just a very annoying one. Our world is full of these limited AI programs which we classify as "weak" or "narrow" or "applied". These programs are far from the sentient, love-seeking, angst-ridden artificial intelligences we see in science fiction, but that's temporary. All these narrow AIs are like the amino acids in the primordial ooze of the Earth.
We're slowly building a library of narrow AI talents that are becoming more impressive. Speech recognition and processing allows computers to convert sounds to text with greater accuracy. Google is using AI to caption millions of videos on YouTube. Likewise, computer vision is improving so that programs like Vitamin d Video can recognize objects, classify them, and understand how they move. Narrow AI isn't just getting better at processing its environment it's also understanding the difference between what a human says and what a human wants 6.
- — Aaron Saenz, Singularity Hub, 10 August 2010.
Note: first version of this page is based entirely on the first citation
“How Smart Machines Like Iphone 4S are Quietly Changing your Industry” Forbes, 16 February 2014, https://www.forbes.com/sites/tedgreenwald/2011/10/13/how-smart-machines-like-iphone-4s-are-quietly-changing-your-industry/ (2)
“Siri, the new iPhone "AI personal assistant": Some useful niche applications, not so much AI ” The Multiverse According to Ben, 16 February 2014, http://multiverseaccordingtoben.blogspot.com/2010/02/siri-new-iphone-personal-assistant-some.html (3)
“How Much Longer Before Our First AI Catastrophe?” io9, 16 February 2014, http://io9.com/how-much-longer-before-our-first-ai-catastrophe-464043243 (4)
“THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE, OR: WHY WEAK AI IS INTERESTING ENOUGH” The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School , 16 February 2014, http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/blog/2011/08/sorcerers-apprentice-or-why-weak-ai-interesting-enough (5)
“We Live in a Jungle of Artificial Intelligence that will Spawn Sentience” Singularity Hub, 16 February 2014, https://singularityhub.com/2010/08/10/we-live-in-a-jungle-of-artificial-intelligence-that-will-spawn-sentience/#sm.00001thp9uwa3odxps1fum84geny4 (6)