Understanding AI – A Brief ‘How To’

Understanding AI?

understanding ai

Starting the journey into the world of Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be as thrilling as it is bewildering. With terminologies like machine learning, neural networks, and deep learning floating around, it’s easy to feel out of depth. However understanding AI doesn’t require a PhD in computer science or a stint at Silicon Valley. It’s a progressive path paved with curiosity, some technical insight, and a dash of patience. This article aims to demystify AI and set you on a course to not just comprehend its basics but also appreciate its complexities and possibilities.

Breaking Down AI: A Beginner’s Overview

Let’s start by demystifying what AI actually is. At its core, AI is about creating machines that can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence. This includes problem-solving, recognizing speech, translating languages, and more. AI is a broad field, encompassing several approaches and disciplines, ranging from robotics to machine learning.

The crux of understanding AI lies in recognizing its two main categories:

  1. Narrow AI: This is AI that’s designed to perform a specific task, like recommending a movie on Netflix or filtering spam in your inbox. It’s the most common form of AI in use today.
  2. General AI: This is the more ‘sci-fi’ version of AI that can understand, learn, and apply its intelligence broadly, similar to a human being. General AI doesn’t yet exist in a practical, widely-used form.

Grasping the Basics: AI’s Building Blocks

To truly understand AI, one needs to be familiar with its foundational concepts.

  1. Machine Learning (ML): It’s a subset of AI where machines are given access to data and allowed to learn for themselves. It’s what powers Google’s search algorithms and Amazon’s product recommendations.
  2. Neural Networks: Inspired by the human brain, these networks consist of interconnected nodes (like neurons) that process information in layers and can make complex decisions.
  3. Deep Learning: This is a type of machine learning involving neural networks with many layers. It’s deep learning that’s behind voice recognition in your virtual assistant and the eerily accurate photo tags on social media.

Understanding these building blocks is crucial because they form the basis of how AI systems are constructed and how they evolve.

Understanding AI – Action Items

understanding ai action items

Action Item 1: Dive into Educational Resources

The first step in understanding AI is to immerse yourself in the wealth of educational content available. This includes:

  • Online Courses: Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and edX offer courses on AI for all skill levels. Begin with introductory courses and gradually tackle more advanced material.
  • Books: There’s a plethora of books on AI. For beginners, “Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans” by Melanie Mitchell provides a non-technical, philosophical approach, while “Life 3.0” by Max Tegmark explores AI’s future impact on the cosmos.
  • Podcasts and Blogs: Stay updated on the latest in AI by subscribing to podcasts and following blogs from sources like OpenAI or Google AI.

Action Item 2: Get Hands-On with AI

Understanding AI is not just about theoretical knowledge; practical experience is key. Here are some ways to get hands-on:

  • Play with AI Tools: Tools like ChatGPT for natural language processing or TensorFlow for machine learning allow you to experiment with AI even without extensive coding skills.
  • Projects: Try simple projects, like building a chatbot or a recommendation system. This practical application cements your learning and gives you a tangible sense of achievement.

Action Item 3: Engage with the AI Community

AI is a fast-evolving field, and being part of a community can greatly accelerate your learning:

  • Forums and Social Media: Platforms like Reddit’s r/MachineLearning or Twitter hashtags like #ArtificialIntelligence are great places to engage with experts and enthusiasts alike.
  • Conferences and Meetups: Attend AI-related events to hear from leading thinkers and network with peers.

The Path to Understanding AI: Continuous Learning

Remember, AI is a field where ongoing education is the norm. As you grow in your understanding of AI, stay adaptable and ready to learn. New algorithms, tools, and theories are being developed all the time.

Understanding AI: The Human Angle

As you delve into AI, you’ll realize that it’s not just a technological phenomenon; it’s also a deeply human one. AI reflects our own intelligence and biases, which means understanding AI is partly about understanding ourselves.

You might even like to read my most recent book, “AI/AGI Revolution – Will This Change What It Means To Be HUMAN?

understanding ai


Understanding AI is a journey, one that’s as intellectually rewarding as it is essential in our tech-driven age. By engaging with educational resources, getting hands-on experience, and being part of the AI community, you’re setting the foundation for not just understanding AI but also contributing to its future direction. Remember, AI is not just about algorithms and data; it’s about the promise of a future where human potential is amplified by machine intelligence. Start today, and who knows? You might just be shaping the AI of tomorrow.

~ Ms Bella St John [written in conjunction with ChatGPT]

Founder, LeadersXL