The AGI Sentinel Initiative

Research Survey:

Defining (machine) Intelligence

Welcome to the research survey on defining (machine) intelligence.

A recent survey of Artificial Intelligence (AI) educators by Michael Wollowski, Peter Norvig and others (Wollowski et al., 2016) showed a stark difference of opinion about the definition of Artificial Intelligence.

We invite you to participate in our survey to gather opinions on definitions of intelligence and Machine Intelligence from leading researchers in AI, Neuroscience, Psychology, and other disciplines, ultimately to help create a unified message on the goal and definition of AI.

John McCarthy (2007) indicated AI is: "the science and engineering of making intelligent machines [...] It is related to the similar task of using computers to understand human intelligence."; However, in a recent interview with Subbarao Kambhampati, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Arizona State University and President of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), Dr. Kambhampati (2017) stated: "It is very hard to define what intelligence is."

Understanding intelligence and how it may be recreated (and measured) is one of the major scientific challenges of our time. Our research shows that theories of intelligence and the goal of AI have been the source of much confusion both within the field and among the general public.

Toward an agreed upon definition and ultimate research goal

As researchers we are aware that a robust definition is usually the result, rather than the starting point, of scientific research, nevertheless an agreed upon working definition of Machine Intelligence and an ultimate research goal could help the next stage of AI development.

In the opening sentence of Nils J. Nilsson's book (2010), The Quest for Artificial Intelligence. A History of Ideas and Achievements, he states: "Artificial intelligence may lack an agreed-upon definition." We hope the results of our study, which will also include a rigorous review of the literature, will help inform academics, researchers, and practitioners with respect to an agreed upon definition of AI from the widest number of practitioners and researchers, and in so doing help towards the creation of building something like an artificial scientist to benefit humanity.

Furthermore, AI has a perception problem in the mainstream media even though many researchers indicate that supporting humanity must be the goal of AI. By clarifying the known definitions of intelligence and research goals of Machine Intelligence this should help us and other AI practitioners spread a stronger, more coherent message, to the mainstream media, policymakers, and the general public to help dispel myths about AI.

The survey is completed anonymously but if you would like to be notified when the paper is available or have your definition of intelligence be considered for inclusion (with your name alongside) in our coming research paper, then there is also the opportunity to add your name and email address.

Take the survey!

A list of definitions of machine intelligence and human intelligence is available with references and sources in PDF. The list is also available online.

Please send an invitation to any people that you feel may be interested and could contribute toward this important principle.

Thank you very much for your contribution!

Dr. Colin W. P. Lewis
Ph.D. in Behavioral Economics and Data Science, AGI Sentinel Initiative

Prof. Dr. Dagmar Monett
Ph.D. in Computer Science
Berlin School of Economics and Law, AGI Sentinel Initiative

Privacy statement:

Any personal information collected in this survey will be processed by researchers in accordance with the terms and conditions of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (Regulation (EU) 2016/679). We will hold your data securely and not make it available to any third party unless permitted or required to do so by law.


Kambhampati, S. (2017). On the Past and Future of AI. Interviews with Experts in Artificial Intelligence, Iridescent. (Last accessed: June 14, 2017).
McCarthy, J. (2007). What is Artificial Intelligence?, Computer Science Department, School of Engineering, Stanford University. (Last accessed: June 14, 2017).
Nilsson, N. J. (2010). The Quest for Artificial Intelligence. A History of Ideas and Achievements. Cambridge University Press.
Wollowski, M., et al. (2016). A Survey of Current Practice and Teaching of AI. In D. Schuurmans and M. Wellman (eds.), Proceedings of the Thirtieth AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, AAAI'16, Phoenix, Arizona, pp. 4119-4124, Palo Alto, CA: AAAI Press.

Take the survey!




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