One of Google's Top Scientists Shares Artificial Intelligence's Toughest Challenge It Must Overcome
Google AI scientist Peter Norvig

Google may be an "AI first" company, but few people who work there actually use the term artificial intelligence.

That's because it doesn't actually describe the seismic shift currently happening across all of the Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) unit's products. The better word for that process is machine learning, which is the technology that's making our computers think and act more like humans, said Peter Norvig, an AI scientist and a director of research at Google. 

"Sundar has come out and said we're an AI first company, and that's a pretty bold statement," Norvig told The Street. "Internally we use machine learning more...it's what we're going to use to become an AI-first company."

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has been charting a transformation at the company ever since he took over as chief executive in 2015. Google's next big step is to navigate a future where mobile devices fade away and are replaced by omnipresent intelligence assistants -- an "AI first world," as Pichai has said. 

But before that future can become a reality, Silicon Valley giants will have to overcome the obstacle of helping average people understand just what exactly AI is, as well as how it can be used in their everyday lives. The invention of products such as Google Assistant, Amazon.com Inc.'s (AMZN) Alexa and Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) Siri has demystified a lot of the confusion surrounding AI, Norvig said. It's helped people realize that AI isn't going to materialize as Skynet from "The Terminator" or as the so-called singularity -- the theory that one day machines will become smarter than humans. 

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Editors' pick: Originally published June 30.

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