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Careers in artificial intelligence continue to rise. But what is it?

SEATTLE — There has been a lot of talk recently about artificial intelligence, or AI. A few months ago, investor and business magnate Elon Musk said the battle for artificial intelligence supremacy could spark World War III. And Russian President Vladimir Putin said whoever controlled AI would rule the world.

But what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when “artificial intelligence” comes up? Does the image of Terminator come to mind? What about the cute robot from the movie Big Hero 6?

"That's part of the misconception is that some people think that AIs are going to be running around the world autonomously, but that's not quite how it works,” said AI researcher Dominique Davis.

Davis is an applied research scientist for Bellevue-based Dimensional Mechanics. She spoke to Q13 News during Seattle Start Up Week. She describes AI as a way for computers to classify data, and then harness that data into some sort of meaningful application that can think on its own.

"You input your data whether it be images, video, even numbers and then it outputs that into a probability," said Davis.

A bunch of probabilities that are combined together to help  a computer system teach itself how to do something — giving a response to a customer question, or someday driving a car, for example. But how close are we to AI becoming the norm, and how advanced can the technology get?

"In reality, as AI researchers like myself, it takes a while to be able to train a model to distinguish between a dog and a cat, for example,” said Davis.

Some say the technology is here now. You can call it Alexa, Siri or Cortana. And tech companies know it.

According to The New York Times, AI specialists are earning between $300,000 to $500,000 a year because they are in high demand.

Part of Davis' job is to educate businesses that AI is the future and that it's useful for any business, from big companies to startups.

“What is it that you're trying to solve. Because at the end of the day, that's what AI does, it solves problems,” said Davis.