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What A Hamster Can Teach You About Artificial Intelligence

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The future of AI brings with it a new world of possibilities - it's helped reshape the way businesses and people solve problems in ways that never seemed possible before. 

It's hard to imagine that artificial intelligence has been around for more than half a century. The influence of AI can be found everywhere from science fiction to practical uses. It's now in many of our homes with digital assistants, smart homes, home appliances, and now with automobiles. In nearly every industry, artificial intelligence has become core to how businesses innovate, drive efficiencies, and stay competitive. 

For many of us, we may not remember the first time we were introduced to AI, but I can still remember exactly how I came to learn about it. When I was 7 years old, I was taught my first lesson about the field of artificial intelligence from my pet hamster, "Mustang".

Mustang was an ordinary hamster with brown fur and a passion for sunflower seeds. He usually spent his day on his wheel and exploring our house in his hamster ball. My father, who was a PhD in math and engineering, decided it was a perfect opportunity for me to learn about the innate abilities of rodents to solve mazes. And of course being 7, I had no clue what was about to happen. 

One summer, my dad built a maze for Mustang. It was an elaborate contraption designed with interchangeable walls cut from balsa wood. It included a heavy plexiglass lid that let us get a bird's eye view into Mustang's progress. Mustang was not that fast of a hamster. But nevertheless, after only one try, Mustang would speed his way to the exit and devour his prize - a giant bowl full of sunflower seeds. My Dad didn't explain to me how Mustang solved it so fast but he did show me the concept of an algorithm. He would say, "Now you try solving the maze but only take right hand turns, but back up if you hit a wall, and then go the other direction. How long will it take you to solve the maze?" 

We didn't have a computer at the time, but my Dad showed me on his calculator the different combinations that we would have to solve for. I later learned that this maze algorithm was called the Wall Follower and that he was actually teaching me an important lesson in math and science. It turns out that the maze algorithms have been around before I was born. In 1968, artificial intelligence researcher, Nils John Nilsson one of the early founding fathers of AI, prototyped a robot that could run through a maze or room with obstacles. This path-finding algorithm was code named A1 and it was based on Dijkstra's algorithm - conceived in 1956.

Mazes are just one puzzle and the A1 algorithm is just one algorithm. With the many subsets of artificial intelligence including natural language processing, and robotics - the most noteworthy is the use of machine learning. It is one of the most talked about AI technologies today, however machine learning is not new at all. It was originally invented in 1952 and originated from an individual named Arthur Samuel who originally used AI and machine learning to solve the problem of how to beat someone in checkers. Similar to the maze solving algorithm, machine learning was developed as an answer to a specific problem to help machines 'learn' and is one of the necessary ingredients in many modern AI advancements today. And similar to the checkers experiment, these early AI experiments were an important first step to understand the power of computing. 

At Oracle, we've seen firsthand the impact of AI - it's embedded into almost everything we do, and the technologies we provide for our customers. With years of domain expertise and a deep understanding of cross-industry, Oracle embeds cognitive AI, analytics, data services, IT management, and security operations. We add machine learning and cognitive interactions to traditional business processes and applications - enabling improved user experiences and productivity. 

Oracle uses machine learning to enhance business applications with adaptive processes to make them more agile and responsive to opportunities. By augmenting user experiences in our business and analytical applications, we've enabled our customers to have more natural and simpler interactions using voice and text. And finally, we've embedded AI into our IT infrastructure, so that our customers can operate efficiently and autonomously reducing manual management and security responsibilities. 

From my first lesson to now, artificial intelligence can be found everywhere. It continues to be core to how we solve problems in business - reshaping the way people live and work. At Oracle, AI and ML techniques form the backbone of our game-changing Autonomous Cloud Platform capabilities. Artificial intelligence continues to advance the way we discover, manage, and make decisions. With these new insights delivered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, companies are delivering new levels of innovations once considered unimaginable.

Learn more about Oracle AI and try it today

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