In popular culture, the prevailing concept of "artificial intelligence" and "machine intelligence" refers to a manufactured being that acts, talks, thinks like and mimics a human. Science fiction, much of it wonderfully written, is full of such AI “beings”. Fortunately, sci-fi is not the exclusive domain of AI capability. One of the most influential pioneers of Computer Science, Alan Turing, pondered whether human-made equipment could possess intelligence, could think, or could feel. His proposition, published in 1950, was that if a computer system could communicate with human beings so well, that a human would think that they were talking to another human, then one would have to say that such a system exhibited an intelligent trait.
While the rest of the computing world was focused on crunching numbers and tabulating data, some researchers were taking on the challenge thrown by Turing and working on software that could understand human language. In 1956, this study got the name "Artificial Intelligence", or "AI" for short. The earliest attempts to translate from one language to another were made during that time. In 1966 the world met Eliza, a program that pretended to be a psychoanalyst, and did it quite well. Eliza used algorithms to recognize words and write reasonable responses, giving birth to a basic type of AI.
Fast-forward to today: millions of people converse with AI systems such as Siri and Alexa. While they know that they are not talking to a human, reasonable human-style dialog is achieved. Such systems typically use artificial neural nets, which we will discuss shortly. Neural nets are another type of AI, which is different from algorithmic systems. But the goals of Eliza and of Siri are the same: to recognize what humans want from them, without forcing people to learn a programming language.