Digital thinking tools for better decision making
Digital thinking tools for better decision making

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Digital thinking tools for better decision making

3.2 Rise of the empiricist AIs

The success of the empiricist approaches, and especially artificial neural networks, was grounded in techniques that had been known for many decades. However, in the early 21st century, the circumstances for deploying those techniques were favourable.

  • The empiricist approach is built on data. As the internet came of age, many companies started tracking the behaviour of users. This produced lots of data. Users also generated data deliberately (e.g. on online photo sites such as Flickr which allow users to label images) and against payment (on platforms such as Amazon Mechanical Turk). Thus, a wealth of data became available to both businesses and researchers.
  • Artificial neural networks require a lot of computing power to perform large numbers of simple but simultaneous calculations. Specialist computer circuits that were initially developed for computer games and other computer graphics applications turned out to be eminently suitable for that job (Figure 12).
A close-up of a graphics processing unit.
Figure 12 A graphics processing unit (GPU) speeds up image processing and artificial neural networks

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371