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 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.