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  • Writer's pictureLuke Nyswonger

An Introduction to AI for Homebrewers

You've probably heard the term "Artificial Intelligence", or "AI" tossed around a lot recently. It might sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it's become a big part of our everyday world. But what does AI mean? And what does it have to do with brewing your own beer at home? In this article, I'll break down the concept of AI into simple, understandable terms. I'll also introduce you to some different types of AI and show you how these amazing technologies can turn your homebrewing hobby into a high-tech adventure.


What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

Think of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, like a toolbox full of different tools. Just like you'd use a hammer for nails and a screwdriver for screws, AI uses different tools for different jobs. These jobs are tasks we often think only humans can do, like chatting in everyday language, spotting patterns, solving puzzles, or making choices. Just like you might need to use several tools to build a brewery in your garage, AI often uses a combination of these "tools" for different tasks. So, in a nutshell, AI is not just one single tool, but a whole box of tools that are all used in different ways.


Venn diagram of Artificial Intelligence
Credit: "The Basics of Artificial Intelligence" article on Medium

Types of AI

Just like there are different tools in a toolbox, there are different types of Artificial Intelligence, or AI. Let's talk about three types that are like the hammer, screwdriver, and wrench in our AI toolbox: Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, and Computer Vision.


  1. Machine Learning (ML) is similar to teaching a robot how to master chess. Imagine an AI-powered robot that has never played chess before. At first, it doesn't know how to strategize or anticipate the opponent's moves. However, as it engages in more games, it learns and improves over time. It's not explicitly programmed to make specific moves; rather, it plays the game repetitively, identifies patterns, learns from its losses, and gradually improves its strategies. This is the core principle of machine learning - learning and adapting from experience without explicit instructions.

  2. Natural Language Processing (NLP) can be compared to teaching a voice assistant like Siri or Alexa to understand and respond to our verbal commands. These voice assistants begin with little knowledge about how our language works, but with NLP, they learn to comprehend our spoken words, interpret the intent behind our commands, and respond in a way that's both relevant and meaningful. This allows us to converse with these devices in a natural, intuitive manner. Rather than us memorizing lines of code to interact with a computer, the computer takes on the task of understanding and responding to our human language.

  3. Computer Vision can be likened to teaching an autonomous car to navigate the roads. At first, the car has no understanding of what it sees - it's just raw data from cameras and sensors. However, with Computer Vision, it learns to distinguish various objects and understand the context, similar to how we identify a pedestrian, a traffic light, or a stop sign. For instance, an autonomous vehicle uses Computer Vision to differentiate between a tree and a pedestrian, understand traffic signals, and make critical decisions on the road. This demonstrates how we not only provide the machine with 'eyes' to see but also with the intelligence to comprehend and respond to the visual world.

So, just like a toolbox has different tools for different tasks, AI uses Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, and Computer Vision in different ways to do things that usually require human intelligence.


Now that we've explored the different tools in the AI toolbox and how they work, you might be wondering, "How can these sophisticated technologies benefit my homebrewing hobby?" The answer lies in a fascinating subfield of AI known as Generative AI. You've likely come across Generative AI, maybe even without realizing it. If you've interacted with language models like ChatGPT, or explored content generated by tools like Midjourney, you've experienced Generative AI firsthand. This exciting subset of AI offers some of the most practical and intriguing applications for homebrewing.


Generative AI in Homebrewing

Generative AI is a subfield of artificial intelligence that uses machine learning models to produce content. These models are designed to learn patterns in data and then generate new content that follows these patterns. It's used in a variety of applications, from creating artwork and writing music to producing human-like text.


When we talk about AI and language models, you might often hear the term "tokens." Imagine you have a string of beads, where each bead represents a word or a character, depending on the language. In this string, a "token" is just like one of those beads. AI models, like GPT-3, look at these tokens in sequence and guess what bead, or "token", should come next. This process is a bit like completing a sentence where you predict the next word based on the words you've already heard. This is the essential concept behind how these models generate human-like text. Simply put, they're excellent guessers, predicting the next "bead" in the string to weave together sentences and ideas.

The GPT-3 Architecture, on a Napkin
Credit: The GPT-3 Architecture, on a Napkin

For those interested in diving deeper into this fascinating topic, there's a highly recommended read titled "The GPT-3 Architecture, on a Napkin". This accessible article elaborates on the underlying concepts in a more detailed, yet digestible manner.


In the context of homebrewing, generative AI, such as GPT-3 or its subsequent versions developed by OpenAI, can be used to provide valuable insights and assist in a variety of tasks. These may include:

  1. Recipe Generation: Generative AI models, when trained on vast datasets of beer recipes, can come up with new and unique beer recipes. You could give it specific parameters like "a stout with a hint of coffee and chocolate" and it can generate a recipe based on those flavors.

  2. Brewing Guidance: Generative AI can provide real-time guidance during the brewing process, answering questions, offering advice, or explaining complex brewing concepts in a simple, understandable manner.

  3. Flavor Profile Description: Generative AI can also help describe the potential taste of a beer based on its recipe and brewing process. This could assist in refining the recipe as per the brewer's preference even before the brewing begins.

  4. Crafting Prompts: Generative AI, with its ability to generate human-like text, can also be used to craft prompts that can assist the brewer in making critical decisions. This can be especially useful for novice brewers who may be unsure about how to troubleshoot issues or make adjustments to their brew. See Prompting 101 for Homebrewers for more information on how to craft prompts.

Remember, generative AI is as much of a tool as your other brewing supplies. When you learn to use it effectively, it can become an integral part of your brewing process, helping you experiment with new recipes, maintain consistent quality, and deepen your understanding of the art and science of brewing.


By understanding and embracing generative AI, homebrewers can unlock new possibilities in the craft of beer making. It's not just about making tasks easier; it's about augmenting human creativity with machine efficiency, bringing about a blend of artistry and precision that is truly the future of homebrewing.


Conclusion

AI is more than just a tech industry buzzword—it's a versatile set of tools that can improve processes, make predictions, and derive insights from large amounts of data. In the world of homebrewing, AI has the potential to revolutionize everything from recipe development to quality control. By understanding and harnessing the power of AI, homebrewers can enhance their craft and elevate their brews to new heights.


🍻 Cheers to AI-assisted brewing!

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