The AGI Sentinel Initiative (2017-2020)

Research Survey:

Defining (machine) Intelligence

(The research survey is not accepting responses anymore. For an introduction to the research and analysis of partial results refer to D. Monett and C. W. P. Lewis (2018). Getting clarity by defining Artificial Intelligence - A Survey. In Müller, Vincent C. (Ed.), Philosophy and Theory of Artificial Intelligence 2017. SAPERE 44 (pp. 212-214). Berlin: Springer, ISBN: 978-3-319-96447-8. See also other related publications.)

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.

Participants to the research survey on defining (machine) intelligence were invited to give their 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. AGISI's 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

AGISI's researchers were 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." AGISI's results, which also included a rigorous review of the literature, may 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.

A list of definitions of machine intelligence and human intelligence is available online.

Privacy statement:

Any personal information collected in this survey was processed by researchers in accordance with the terms and conditions of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (Regulation (EU) 2016/679). The data was hold securely and not made 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.