Breaking down artificial intelligence to form a starting point for adoption


To leverage, communicate and sell the power of artificial intelligence, we first must capture its essence.

Artificial intelligence will humanize recommendation engines, improve the accuracy of logistics engines, and represent a monumental change in the friendliness of chatbot engines. Learning new languages (Duolingo), finding new dinner plans (Replika) and making photography exciting again (Prisma) is how our business partners will be introduced to the potential of artificial intelligence.

How we plan for AI

If I asked you how to build a house, you’d have a series of steps in mind. When asked how to validate a company’s technology security perimeter, other action steps come immediately to the forefront. And when booking a vacation to Brazil, a clear approach to get you on the beach fast rushes to the mind.

We’re of course not talking about building houses, creating security resilience, or booking vacations. We’re talking about how to introduce business leaders, scientists and medical professionals to the power of artificial intelligence. So where do we start? What’s our first step?

Three steps toward AI enlightenment

We start with a framework for all intelligence agents. Artificial intelligence can be separated into two categories: (1) thought processes and reasoning and (2) behavior. Whether you lean more toward the mathematics and engineering side (rationalist) or closer to the human-centered approach (behavior), the heart of AI is trying to understand how we think.

The first step: Decide which of the four categories of artificial intelligence the enterprise will explore.

  1. Thinking humanly: systems that think like humans
  2. Acting humanly: systems that act like humans
  3. Thinking rationally: systems that think rationally
  4. Acting rationally: systems that act rationally

The second step: determine the intent of our artificial intelligence initiative.

Thinking humanly (cognitive modeling) blends artificial intelligence with models—as in the case of neurophysiological experiments. Actual experiments in the cognitive sciences depend on human or animal observations and investigations. Acting humanly (Turning Test) attempts to establish a line between non-intelligence and satisfactory intelligence. Thinking rationally captures “right thinking” in computer language. Coding logic is fraught with challenges, since informal knowledge doesn’t translate well to formal notation. Acting rationally is about acting. Agents perform acts, and “rational agents” can autonomously maneuver, adapt to change and evolve (learned intelligence).

The third step: identify the capabilities required.

Thinking humanly capabilities:

  1. Observation
  2. Matching human behavior
  3. Reasoning approach to solving problems
  4. Solve problems
  5. Computer models to simulate the human mind

Acting humanly capabilities:

  1. Natural language processing
  2. Automated reasoning
  3. Machine learning
  4. Knowledge representation
  5. Computer vision and robotics

Thinking rationally capabilities:

  1. Codify thinking
  2. Pattern argument structures
  3. Codify facts and logic (knowledge)
  4. Solve problems in practice (not principle)
  5. Solve problems with logical notation

Acting rationally:

  1. Thought inferences
  2. Adapt to change (agents, chatbots)
  3. Analyze multiple correct outcomes
  4. Operate autonomously
  5. Create and pursue objectives

Step beyond

Artificial intelligence, since the mid-1940s, has moved across the plane of learning from philosophy to control theory. The philosophy of logic and reason established the foundations of learning, language and rationality. Mathematics formally represented computations and probabilities. Psychology illuminated the phenomena of motion and psychophysics (experimental techniques). Linguistics studied morphology, syntax, phonetics and semantics. Neuroscience poked at the function of the nervous system and brain. Control theory combines the complexities of dynamic systems and how behavior is modified by feedback.

Navigation, neural networks, gene expression, climate modeling and production theory all stem from control systems engineering.

It’s easy to become tangled up in the possibilities of artificial intelligence. First, we must decide which of the four categories of artificial intelligence we will explore. Second, we must determine the intent of our artificial intelligence initiative. Third, we must identify the capabilities required. In sum: Start with a plan and clarify your first three steps for your organization to realize the potential of artificial intelligence.


Peter B. Nichol, empowers organizations to think different for different results. You can follow Peter on Twitter or his personal blog Leaders Need Pancakes or Peter can be reached at pnichol [dot]

Peter is the author of Learning Intelligence: Expand Thinking. Absorb Alternative. Unlock Possibilities (2017), which Marshall Goldsmith, author of the New York Times No. 1 bestseller Triggers, calls “a must-read for any leader wanting to compete in the innovation-powered landscape of today.”

Peter also authored The Power of Blockchain for Healthcare: How Blockchain Will Ignite The Future of Healthcare (2017), the first book to explore the vast opportunities for blockchain to transform the patient experience.

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Peter is a healthcare business and technology executive, recognized for Digital Innovation by CIO 100, MIT Sloan, Computerworld, and the Project Management Institute. As Managing Director at OROCA Innovations, Peter leads the CXO advisory services practice driving digital strategies.

Peter was honored as an MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award Finalist in 2015 and is a regular contributor to on innovation. As Head of Information Technology, Peter was responsible for Connecticut’s Health Insurance Exchange’s (HIX) industry-leading digital platform transforming consumerism and retail oriented services for the health insurance industry. Peter championed the Connecticut marketplace digital implementation with a transformational cloud-based SaaS platform and mobile application recognized as a 2014 PMI Project of the Year Award finalist, CIO 100, and awards for best digital services, API, and platform. He also received a lifetime achievement award for leadership and digital transformation, honored as a 2016 Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leader.

Peter has a B.S. in C.I.S from Bentley University and an MBA from Quinnipiac University, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude. He earned his PMP® in 2001 and is a certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Business Relationship Management Professional (BRMP) and Certified Scrum Master. As a Commercial Rated Aviation Pilot and Master Scuba Diver, Peter understands first hand, how to anticipate change and lead boldly.