Vol 6: Stages of AI; Distinguishing between Narrow AI, General AI and Super AI

A Guide.

Hey Friends,

Trust you had a great week?

We all know YouTube is the largest video sharing site on the internet, in our world videos can be watched on PCs, laptops, mobile devices and even watches, now let’s think back to15 years ago, and you may start to realize just how fast technology is advancing, streaming services on Netflix and Paramount plus were not existing, Facebook was just setting up, in 2005 you could only get 1GB of RAM for $199, and WindowsXP was the standard Microsoft operating system, that was just 15 years ago.

118 years ago, the Wright brothers were just completing their first flight and the Ford Model T that revolutionize the transportation sector was just 5 years away, now look back to 1000 years ago and the world is now a very primitive place, with no electricity and a very small grasp of modern science, 5000 years ago civilization as we know it today was not existing. Technological progress is speeding up, the next 10-20 years will produce a new world which will make the modern world look outdated and slow by comparison, this progress is happening faster and faster and is predicted that in this century we will make 1000 times the progress in technology compared to the last century, these facts are largely unchallenged, the big question is where are we headed?

The thing we call AI meaning computers doing intelligent things is the manifest destiny of computer science. The amazing AI applications we see today are just the tip of an iceberg, as machine learning capabilities continue to evolve, and scientists get closer to achieving general AI, theories and speculations regarding the future of AI are circulating. There are two main theories;

  1. The first is based on the fear of a dystopian future, where super-intelligent killer robots take over the world, either wiping out the human race or enslaving all of humanity, as depicted in many science fiction narratives.

  2. The other theory predicts a more optimistic future, where humans and robots will work together and humans using artificial intelligence as a tool to enhance their life experience.

See also: Artificial Intelligence History, The Technology of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Clever algorithms can already outperform humans at certain tasks. For example, they can beat the best human players in the world at incredibly complex games like Chess and Go (Go is a Chinese board game), and they’re able to spot cancerous tumours in a mammogram far quicker than a human clinician can. AI Machines can also spot the difference between a cat and a dog, or determine a random person’s identity just by looking at a photo of their face. They can also translate languages, drive cars, and keep your home at the right temperature, but generally speaking, they’re still nowhere near as smart as the average 8-year-old. 


We have three (3) stages of AI, these stages are classified based on AI’s capabilities. They are;

  1. Artificial Narrow Intelligence

  2. Artificial General Intelligence

  3. Artificial Super Intelligence

Artificial Narrow Intelligence

We have currently only achieved narrow AI also known as ‘weak AI.’ ANI is the stage of artificial intelligence that involves machines that can perform only a narrowly set of predefined tasks or are good at performing only a single task, like a chess computer game, weather forecast etc. An AI that specializes in Chess will be useless at Checkers or a game-playing AI can’t turn itself into painting a picture.

These machines can’t do more than what they are programmed for, and thus have a very limited or narrow range of competency, at this stage the machines don’t possess any thinking ability, they just perform a set of specific functions, almost all the AI-based system that are built to this day fall under the category of weak AI or ANI, examples include; Siri, face-recognition-system, self-driving cars, Sophia the humanoid robot etc.

However, computer scientists at the likes of Google and Facebook are aiming to make AI more “general” in the years ahead, and that’s got some big thinkers deeply concerned. The reason we still call them weak AI is because they are nowhere close to human-like intelligence unlike general or strong AI which will be explained further.

Artificial General Intelligence

We already know of one intelligence smart enough to improve AI, and that is we humans, AGI is also known as strong AI, this stage is the evolution of artificial intelligence wherein machines will possess the ability to think and make decisions just like human beings, there are currently no existing examples of strong AI but is believed that we will soon be able to create machines that are as smart as human beings.

AGI can do basically everything humans can do from; logical reasoning, thinking, creativity, strategy, learning a skill on its own without the help of pre-fed data, it can identify knowledge resources on its own etc. It matches humans in almost all areas of the brain. Currently, all AI research currently is directed towards ANI, we are getting closer to an AGI each year. There are multiple ways an AGI may be created, one of these methods involves simulating an entire human brain, computers are currently not powerful enough to do this, but it is going to happen soon, thanks to exponentially advancing technology.

See also: AI Winter, How Advanced are we with AI?

Polymath Nick Bostrom who founded The Future of Humanity Institute (FHI) at the University of Oxford said “in a matter of a single week, AGI can perform the scientific research of 20,000 years." Imagine how much we have developed our world in the last century; Airplanes, radios and televisions, spacecraft, nuclear technologies, telephones, the internet etc. now imagine the disruption 20,000 years of research will cause on our planet.

With a high-speed network and good computational capacity, AGI can watch all the YouTube videos, can do every course on Coursera and Udemy, it can read everything on Wikipedia in a matter of hours, now imagine how many skills it would learn and how many strategies and creations it can come up with, in a matter of days it can improve itself and surpass humans capabilities. Some scientists consider Strong AI as a threat to human existence.

Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, has an interesting test for confirming AGI, dubbed The Coffee Test; he said “A machine is required to enter an average American home and figure out how to make coffee: find the coffee machine, find the coffee, add water, find a mug, and brew the coffee by pushing the proper buttons.”

Artificial Super Intelligence

At this level, AI is smarter than humans, and its capabilities are greater than humans. When we talk about ASI, we are talking about a machine that has the capability to process more complex calculations than the entire human race, the development of ASI will probably mark the climax of AI research, these systems don’t currently exist. The time when this happens will be called ‘The Singularity.

Since one of the roles of this AI would be to improve itself and perform better, it seems pretty obvious that once we have a super-intelligent AI, it will be able to create a better version of itself. And guess what the new generation of AI would then do? That’s right – improve itself even further. Super-intelligent AI would be extremely efficient at attaining goals, whatever they may be, but we need to ensure these goals align with ours if we expect to maintain some level of control.

I hope you enjoyed learning, to be continued next week.

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Enjoy your weekend!


My Favourite Things This Week

Article: Ken Saro-Wiwa is a hero in his activism for the Ogoni minority ethnic group in Nigeria, click here to read this article by The Washington Post titled: The complex life and death of Ken Saro-Wiwa.

Video- Artificial Intelligence is definitely the future of the world, AI will drive the economy of tomorrow, watch this video to hear what great minds are saying about this technology.

Fun Fact:

You might have seen a Chimpanzee in a cage, recognized as the smartest animal in the world, they are physically stronger than us, but still, we could confine them, how? We are slightly more intelligent than a Chimpanzee, we are just 100 IQ points more than a Chimpanzee, but we can still choose to cage them, look at how much difference 100 points in IQ can make, what do you think will be the IQ of an artificial super-intelligent machine, would it help us or would it hurt us?

I’m an optimist, I have my answers already.

Quote of The Week

The real risk with AI isn’t Malice but Competence. A super-intelligent AI will be extremely good at accomplishing its goals, and if those goals aren’t aligned with ours, we’re in trouble.

-Stephen Hawking.