What is 'Weak AI'

Weak AI, or Narrow AI, is a machine intelligence that is limited to a specific or narrow area. Weak Artificial Intelligence (AI) simulates human cognition and benefits mankind by automating time-consuming tasks and by analyzing data in ways that humans sometimes can’t.


Weak AI lacks human consciousness, though it may be able to simulate it. The classic illustration of weak AI is John Searle’s Chinese room thought experiment. This experiment says that a person outside a room may be able to have what appears to be a conversation in Chinese with a person inside a room who is given instructions on how to respond to conversations in Chinese. The person inside the room would appear to speak Chinese, but in reality, they couldn’t actually speak or understand a word of it absent the instructions they’re being fed. That's because the person is good at following instructions, not at speaking Chinese. They might appear to have Strong AI – machine intelligence equivalent to human intelligence – but they really only have Weak AI.

Narrow or weak AI systems do not have general intelligence; they have specific intelligence. An AI that is an expert at telling you how to drive from point A to point B is usually incapable of challenging you to a game of chess. And an AI that can pretend to speak Chinese with you probably cannot sweep your floors.

Weak AI helps turn big data into usable information by detecting patterns and making predictions. Examples include Facebook’s news feed, Amazon’s suggested purchases and Apple’s Siri, the iPhone technology that answers users’ spoken questions. Email spam filters are another example of Weak AI where a computer uses an algorithm to learn which messages are likely to be spam, then redirects them from the inbox to the spam folder.

Limitations of Weak AI

Problems with Weak AI besides its limited capabilities include the possibility to cause harm if a system fails­ – think of a driverless car that miscalculates the location of an oncoming vehicle and causes a deadly collision – and the possibility to cause harm if the system is used by someone who wishes to cause harm – such as a terrorist who uses a self-driving car to deploy explosives in a crowded area. Another issue with it is determining who is at fault for a malfunction or a design flaw.

A further concern is the loss of jobs caused by the automation of an increasing number of tasks. Will unemployment skyrocket or will society come up with new ways for humans to be economically productive? Though the prospect of a large percentage of workers losing their jobs may be terrifying, it is reasonable to expect that should this happen, new jobs will emerge that we can’t yet predict, as the use of AI becomes increasingly widespread.

  1. AI Winter

    AI (Artificial Intelligence) winter is a time period in which ...
  2. Associate In Insurance Services ...

    A designation earned by insurance professionals and conferred ...
  3. Artificial Neural Networks (ANN)

    Artificial Neural Networks (ANN) are the foundations of Artificial ...
  4. Knowledge Engineering

    Knowledge engineering is a field of artificial intelligence (AI) ...
  5. Business Intelligence (BI)

    Business intelligence (BI) refers to the procedural and technical ...
  6. Davos World Economic Forum

    The Davos World Economic Forum is the annual meeting of the World ...
Related Articles
  1. Tech

    Investors Turn to Artificial Intelligence (GOOGL, FB)

    Since the Alan Turing developed the Turing Test, scientific researchers have worked to develop a computer with the ability to function like a human brain.
  2. Tech

    How Big Data and Artificial Intelligence Affect Investing

    Due to the increasing use of big data and artificial intelligence, investors are able to make more informed investment choices and grow their money.
  3. Investing

    Microsoft Names AI Top Priority In Annual Report

    The tech giant identified artificial intelligence as a top priority in its new annual report.
  4. Investing

    Microsoft, Intel, NVIDIA Invest in Element AI

    The three participated in a venture round for the hot new Canadian AI startup, which raised $102M.
  5. Tech

    Introduction To Accounting Information Systems

    Learn what an accounting information system is and the six main parts of this indispensable business asset for managing a company's financial data.
  6. Investing

    Bill Gates Responds to Musk's AI Concerns

    Microsoft's co-founder doesn't think we have to worry about AI robots taking over the world.
  7. Investing

    Microsoft, NVIDIA Collaborate on Enterprise AI (MSFT, NVDA)

    Few companies are in a better position to service the corporate AI need than Microsoft, which has dominated the enterprise with Office and Windows.
  8. Tech

    The Battle for Dominance in AI is Heating Up (CRM)

    As it competes with technology giants like Google, Salesforce looks to secure its place in the market for AI with its new Einstein software.
  9. Tech

    How to Play the Coming AI Revolution(GOOGL,AAPL)

    As the AI and robotics industry is expected to grow by leaps and bounds, these companies present some safe bets on the very real, not-so-distant future.
  10. Investing

    NVIDIA GPUs to Power Japan's Fastest AI Computer

    Though NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA) stock is down a touch in 2017, that has more to do with investors taking an inevitable breather after driving its share price up nearly 300% last year than any shortcomings ...
  1. What are some common functions of business intelligence technologies?

    Understand the common functions of business intelligence technologies, and learn how business intelligence is used to increase ... Read Answer >>
  2. What is human capital and how is it used?

    Learn about the concept of human capital, how it is developed and why it is important for businesses to protect their human ... Read Answer >>
  3. What is the difference between business intelligence and business analytics?

    Find out what differences, if any, exist between business intelligence and business analytics, and learn the role of each ... Read Answer >>
  4. What is the relationship between human capital and economic growth?

    Learn what human capital and economic growth are, how human capital is related to economic growth and see examples of the ... Read Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Working Capital

    Working capital, also known as net working capital is a measure of a company's liquidity and operational efficiency.
  2. Bond

    A bond is a fixed income investment in which an investor loans money to an entity (corporate or governmental) that borrows ...
  3. Compound Annual Growth Rate - CAGR

    The Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) is the mean annual growth rate of an investment over a specified period of time longer ...
  4. Net Present Value - NPV

    Net Present Value (NPV) is the difference between the present value of cash inflows and the present value of cash outflows ...
  5. Price-Earnings Ratio - P/E Ratio

    The Price-to-Earnings Ratio or P/E ratio is a ratio for valuing a company that measures its current share price relative ...
  6. Internal Rate of Return - IRR

    Internal Rate of Return (IRR) is a metric used in capital budgeting to estimate the profitability of potential investments.
Trading Center