A Guide to the Different Types of Artificial Intelligence and How They Work

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of a computer or a robot to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as reasoning, learning, decision making, and problem solving. AI has become a buzzword in the 21st century, as it has enabled many breakthroughs in various fields, such as health care, education, entertainment, and business. But what are the different types of AI and how do they work? In this article, we will introduce you to the main types of AI and their functions.

Types of AI by learning ability

One way to classify AI is by its learning ability, which reflects how well it can adapt to new situations and improve its performance. There are three main categories of AI by learning ability: narrow, general, and super.

Narrow AI:

This type of AI can perform only a specific task or a set of tasks within a limited domain. It cannot learn or apply its knowledge to other domains or tasks. For example, a chess-playing AI can beat human grandmasters at chess, but it cannot play any other game or do anything else. Narrow AI is also known as weak AI, as it does not have the full range of human cognitive abilities.

General AI

This type of AI can perform any intellectual task that a human can do. It can learn from any domain or task and apply its knowledge to new situations. It can also reason, plan, and understand natural language. General AI is also known as strong AI, as it has the same level of intelligence as humans. However, general AI does not exist yet, and it is still a hypothetical goal for many researchers.

Super AI

This type of AI can surpass human intelligence in every aspect. It can perform any task better than humans and have greater creativity, wisdom, and self-awareness. Super AI is also a hypothetical concept, and some experts believe that it may pose an existential threat to humanity if not aligned with human values and goals.

Types of AI by functionality

Another way to classify AI is by its functionality, which reflects how it mimics human intelligence and behavior. There are four main types of AI by functionality: reactive machines, limited memory machines, theory of mind machines, and self-aware machines.

Reactive machines

This type of AI can only react to the current situation based on predefined rules. It does not have any memory or learning ability. It can only perform simple tasks that do not require any planning or reasoning. For example, Google’s AlphaGo is a reactive machine that can play Go at a superhuman level, but it cannot learn from its own or others’ games or adapt to new rules or strategies.

Limited memory machines

This type of AI can store some data from the past and use it to inform its current actions. It can learn from experience and improve its performance over time. However, it cannot create a general model of the world or understand the meaning behind the data. For example, self-driving cars are limited memory machines that can navigate the roads based on sensor data and previous encounters with traffic situations, but they cannot comprehend the intentions or emotions of other drivers or pedestrians.

Theory of mind machines

This type of AI can understand the mental states of others, such as their beliefs, desires, emotions, and intentions. It can also interact with others using natural language and social cues. It can create a model of the world that includes not only physical objects but also agents with their own goals and perspectives. For example, Siri and Alexa are theory of mind machines that can converse with humans using natural language and respond to their requests and queries, but they cannot empathize with their feelings or motivations.

Self-aware machines

This type of AI can have a sense of self and consciousness. It can recognize itself as an individual entity with its own identity and preferences. It can also reflect on its own actions and goals and modify them accordingly. It can have emotions, morals, and values. Self-aware machines are the ultimate goal of artificial intelligence research, but they are still far from being realized.


Artificial intelligence is a broad field that encompasses many types of systems that can perform various tasks that require human intelligence.

By understanding the different types of AI and how they work, we can appreciate their achievements and limitations, as well as their potential impacts on our society and future.

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