Artificial intelligence (AI), is intelligence demonstrated by machines, unlike the natural intelligence displayed by humans and animals. Leading AI textbooks define the field as the study of “intelligent agent”: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of successfully achieving its goals. Colloquially, the term “artificial intelligence” is often used to describe machines (or computers) that mimic “cognitive” functions that humans associate with the human mind, such as “learning” and “problem solving.
The field was founded on the assumption that human intelligence “can be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it”. This raises philosophical arguments about the mind and the ethics of creating artificial beings endowed with human-like intelligence. These issues have been explored by myth, fiction and philosophy since antiquity. Some people also consider AI to be a danger to humanity if it progresses unabated. Others believe that AI, unlike previous technological revolutions, will create a risk of mass unemployment.
Computer science defines AI research as the study of “intelligent agents”: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of successfully achieving its goals. A more elaborate definition characterizes AI as “a system’s ability to correctly interpret external data, to learn from such data, and to use those learnings to achieve specific goals and tasks through flexible adaptation.”
A typical AI analyzes its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of success. An AI’s intended utility function can be simple (“1 if the AI wins a game of Go, 0 otherwise”) or complex (“Perform actions mathematically similar to ones that succeeded in the past”). Goals can be explicitly defined or induced. If the AI is programmed for “reinforcement learning”, goals can be implicitly induced by rewarding some types of behavior or punishing others. Alternatively, an evolutionary system can induce goals by using a “fitness function” to mutate and preferentially replicate high-scoring AI systems, similar to how animals evolved to innately desire certain goals such as finding food. Some AI systems, such as nearest-neighbor, instead of reason by analogy, these systems are not generally given goals, except to the degree that goals are implicit in their training data. Such systems can still be benchmarked if the non-goal system is framed as a system whose “goal” is to successfully accomplish its narrow classification task.