If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
The first time I met Alexa, the A.I. robot voice inside the wine-bottle-size speaker known as the Amazon Echo, I was at my friends' house, in rural New England. "Currently, it is seventy-five degrees," she told us, and assured us that it would not rain. This was a year ago, and I'd never encountered a talking speaker before. She's in cahoots with a sensor in their driveway.) When I razzed my friend for his love of gadgetry, he showed me some of Alexa's other tricks: telling us the weather, keeping a shopping list, ordering products from Amazon.
One thing I've noticed since moving to San Francisco is that my cohort in the tech world doesn't talk that much about the industry's past. This is understandable: it's easy to forget that tech has a history. Just as old hardware is regularly tossed and replaced, the Web washes itself clean. But a few months ago, while researching early hacker webzines, I found myself in the backwaters of Wired's online archive, reading technological forecasts from 1993. A few moments later, I was on eBay, where I started to bid on strangers' dusty collections of early issues of Wired, all from the years 1993 to 1995.