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 decade of this century has seen the nascency of the first mathematical theory of general artificial intelligence. This theory of Universal Artificial Intelligence (UAI) has made significant contributions to many theoretical, philosophical, and practical AI questions. In a series of papers culminating in book (Hutter, 2005), an exciting sound and complete mathematical model for a super intelligent agent (AIXI) has been developed and rigorously analyzed. While nowadays most AI researchers avoid discussing intelligence, the award-winning PhD thesis (Legg, 2008) provided the philosophical embedding and investigated the UAI-based universal measure of rational intelligence, which is formal, objective and non-anthropocentric. Recently, effective approximations of AIXI have been derived and experimentally investigated in JAIR paper (Veness et al. 2011). This practical breakthrough has resulted in some impressive applications, finally muting earlier critique that UAI is only a theory. For the first time, without providing any domain knowledge, the same agent is able to self-adapt to a diverse range of interactive environments. For instance, AIXI is able to learn from scratch to play TicTacToe, Pacman, Kuhn Poker, and other games by trial and error, without even providing the rules of the games. These achievements give new hope that the grand goal of Artificial General Intelligence is not elusive. This article provides an informal overview of UAI in context. It attempts to gently introduce a very theoretical, formal, and mathematical subject, and discusses philosophical and technical ingredients, traits of intelligence, some social questions, and the past and future of UAI.
Artificial general intelligence (AGI) refers to research aimed at tackling the full problem of artificial intelligence, that is, create truly intelligent agents. This sets it apart from most AI research which aims at solving relatively narrow domains, such as character recognition, motion planning, or increasing player satisfaction in games. But how do we know when an agent is truly intelligent? A common point of reference in the AGI community is Legg and Hutter's formal definition of universal intelligence, which has the appeal of simplicity and generality but is unfortunately incomputable. Games of various kinds are commonly used as benchmarks for "narrow" AI research, as they are considered to have many important properties. We argue that many of these properties carry over to the testing of general intelligence as well. We then sketch how such testing could practically be carried out. The central part of this sketch is an extension of universal intelligence to deal with finite time, and the use of sampling of the space of games expressed in a suitably biased game description language.
The development of artificial intelligence systems has to date been largely one of manual labor. This Constructionist approach to A.I. has resulted in a diverse set of isolated solutions to relatively small problems. Small success stories of putting these pieces together in robotics, for example, has made people optimistic that continuing on this path would lead to artificial general intelligence. This is unlikely. "The A.I. problem" has been divided up without much guidance from science or theory, resulting in a fragmentation of the research community and a set of grossly incompatible approaches. Standard software development methods come with serious limitations in scaling; in A.I. the Constructionist approach results in systems with limited domain application and severe performance brittleness. Genuine integration, as required for general intelligence, is therefore practically and theoretically precluded. Yet going beyond current A.I. systems requires significantly more complex integration than attempted to date, especially regarding transversal functions such as attention and learning. The only way to address the challenge is replacing top-down architectural design as a major development methodology with methods focusing on self-generated code and self-organizing architectures. I call this Constructivist A.I., in reference to the self-constructive principles on which it must be based. Methodologies employed for Constructivist A.I. will be very different from today's software development methods. In this paper I describe the argument in detail and examine some of the implications of this impending paradigm shift.
The First Conference on Artificial General Intelligence (AGI-08) was held on March 1-3, 2008, at the University of Memphis. The overall goal of the conference was to work toward a common understanding of the most promising paths toward creating AI systems with general intelligence at the human level and beyond, and to share interim results and ideas achieved by researchers actively working toward powerful artificial general intelligence.
We posit that, given the current state of development of cognitive science, the greatest synergies between this field and artificial intelligence arise when one adopts a high level of abstraction. On the one hand, we suggest, cognitive science embodies some interesting, potentially general principles regarding cognition under limited resources, and AI systems that violate these principles should be treated with skepticism. But on the other hand, attempts to precisely emulate human cognition in silicon are hampered by both their ineffectiveness at exploiting the power of digital computers, and the current paucity of algorithm-level knowledge as to how human cognition takes place. We advocate a focus on artificial general intelligence design. This means building systems capturing the salient high-level features of human intelligence (e.g., goal-oriented behavior, sophisticated learning, self-reflection, etc...), yet with software architectures and algorithms specifically designed for effective performance on modern computing hardware. We give several illustrations of this broad principle drawn from our work, including the adaptation of estimation of distribution algorithms in evolutionary programming for complex procedure learning.