We’ve all seen the film where robots take over the world, with their mechanical bodies causing Hollywood-style screams from unsuspecting (or maybe very suspecting) victims.

And, while these kinds of films let us live an alternate reality for an hour and a half, there’s always that niggling thought at the backs of our minds telling us that this could actually happen in the not-too-distant future.

Robots and the artificial intelligence (AI) that drives them isn’t a new concept, though. In fact, the “father of AI”, Alan Turing, was beavering away on it in the 1950s. He developed the Turing Test, which had a judge ask questions to a machine and a human.

The judge would then have to decide who was the human and, if the computer could fool the judge at least half of the time, it was considered intelligent.

Today, the world of AI has evolved a whole lot more thanks to the incredible advancements of technology (hello “smart homes” and “smart clothes”).

However, it’s still a relatively new field of research that is in a constant state of flux and has scientists attempting to devise the best innovations they can come up with.

Basically, this means that we don’t have to worry about mechanical beings taking over the world – yet.

And, because the field is still fresh, the definitions of certain terms within the industry are fluid and constantly changing.

Terms like AI and AGI, for example, have been defined and redefined over and over again, although we do have a better understanding of the difference between the two terms now (and it’s not just an additional letter).

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

When you think of the term artificial intelligence, you might think of characters like C-3PO from Star Wars, or maybe even the cute Pixar robot, Wall-E.

I want you to get rid of these images right now.

Because, although Hollywood might like you to think of these mechanical characters when you think of AI, it’s not entirely accurate.

In fact, AI actually just refers to a machine that can copy human cognitive abilities – think things like problem solving and learning here. But here’s the kicker: a human has to program the machine first so that it can learn from past patterns to create new information or solve a problem.

Take a chess playing AI, for example. A human would have to input data about different chess moves, and the machine would then use that information to form data-driven choices – but that’s all it would be able to do. You couldn’t get it to analyze medical data, for instance, because that information wouldn’t have been programmed in.

AI basically offers an automated way to carry out a task a human can already perform, but instead of using people power to sift through reams of data, you can get a machine to do it much quicker while saving valuable time.

Simply put, AI functions are pre-programmed beforehand.

It’s why business owners are starting to implement AI innovations to streamline their lead generation processes, their customer journeys, and payment options (in fact, more than 72% of business leaders think AI development will be an important part of their future success).

What is Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)?

Whereas AI is preprogrammed to carry out a task that a human can but more efficiently, artificial general intelligence (AGI) expects the machine to be just as smart as a human.

This is the kind of AI we’re used to seeing in blockbuster movies.

Basically, AGI machines would be equally as intelligent as humans in every way and would be able to perform the same intellectual tasks with the same – or better – success.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak created a tasks called the Coffee Test which helps determines whether a machine is AGI. It involves the robot going into a house and making a cup of coffee without any specific pre-programmed help.

It would have to hunt down the items it would need, figure out how to use them, and then carry out the task to the same quality as a human. A machine that was able to do this would be considered a fine example of AGI.

You see how this differs from AI, right?

An AI machine might be able to share the optimum amount of coffee to use to make the best cup based on data, or sort the mugs by color, but it wouldn’t be able to carry out every step of the process.

So, whereas an AI machine needs to have preprogrammed data in order to be able to carry out specific tasks that are driven by that data, AGI would be just as capable at carrying out tasks as humans.

For example, you could take an untrained, non-programmed AGI machine and teach it to do practically anything, whether that’s to play chess, be a doctor, or solve crimes – and this would all be possible without having to program in the knowledge involved in doing any of these tasks.

We Could Have Robot Servants by 2030


Is a future of robot servants on our horizon?

Could we see cities with AGI servers, shop attendants, and concierges in the not-too-distant future?

If AGI machines can practically do anything that humans can, surely this is the next logical step in the advancement of technology?

Dr. Hiroshi Yamakawa, one of the leading AGI researchers in Japan, seems to think so: “I think there’s a possibility that it can happen soon,” he says. “But taking the average of the estimates of people involved, we came up with 2030.”

According to this prediction, we have just over a decade until those dystopian robot-Armageddon films might start becoming a little more than a niggling at the backs of our minds.

Until then, AI and AGI will do doubt continue to evolve, change, and progress in ways we can’t quite comprehend as mere humans.