compiled by

William J. Rapaport

Department of Computer Science and Engineering,
Department of Philosophy,
and Center for Cognitive Science
State University of New York at Buffalo,
Buffalo, NY 14260-2000

Last Update: Monday, 17 January 2022

Note: NEW or UPDATED material is highlighted

  1. "We propose that a 2 month, 10 man study of artificial intelligence be carried out during the summer of 1956 at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. The study is to proceed on the basis of the conjecture that every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it. An attempt will be made to find how to make machines use language, form abstractions and concepts, solve kinds of problems now reserved for humans, and improve themselves. We think that a significant advance can be made in one or more of these problems if a carefully selected group of scientists work on it together for a summer." (McCarthy, John; Minsky, Marvin L.; Rochester, Nathaniel; & Shannon, Claude E. (31 August 1955), A Proposal for the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence, my italics)

  2. The goal of work in artificial intelligence is to build machines that perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence. (Nilsson, Nils J. (1971), Problem-Solving Methods in Artificial Intelligence (New York: McGraw-Hill): vii.)

  3. Research scientists in Artificial Intelligence try to get machines to exhibit behavior that we call intelligent behavior when we observe it in human beings. (Slagle, James R. (1971), Artificial Intelligence: The Heuristic Programming Approach (New York: McGraw-Hill): 1.)

  4. B. Raphael ... has suggested that AI is a collective name for problems which we do not yet know how to solve properly by computer. (Michie, Donald, "Formation and Execution of Plans by Machine," in N. V. Findler & B. Meltzer (eds.) (1971), Artificial Intelligence and Heuristic Programming (New York: American Elsevier): 101-124; quotation on p. 101.)

    [Note that it follows that once we do know how to solve them, they are no longer AI!]

  5. What is or should be [AI researchers'] main scientific activity--studying the structure of information and the structure of problem solving processes independently of applications and independently of its realization in animals or humans. (McCarthy, John (1974), Review of "Artificial Intelligence: A General Survey," Artificial Intelligence 5: 317-322; quotation on p. 317.)

  6. By "artificial intelligence" I therefore mean the use of computer programs and programming techniques to cast light on the principles of intelligence in general and human thought in particular. (Boden, Margaret (1977), Artificial Intelligence and Natural Man (New York: Basic Books): 5.)

  7. A valuable discussion of the nature of AI may be found in the "debate" between Schank, Roger C. (1983), "The Current State of AI: One Man's Opinion", AI Magazine, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Spring): 3-8, and Bundy, Alan (1983), "The Nature of AI: A Reply to Schank", AI Magazine, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Winter): 29-31.

  8. See also: Nilsson, Nils J. (1983), "Artificial Intelligence Prepares for 2001", AI Magazine, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Winter): 7-14.

  9. The software engineer David Lorge Parnas compares two different definitions of AI in the context of the US government's Strategic Defense Initiative: "Software Aspects of Strategic Defense Systems", American Scientist 73 (1985): 432-440, esp. pp. 437-438: "Artificial Intelligence and the Strategic Defense Initiative".

  10. From: wm@tekchips.UUCP (Wm Leler)
    Subject: Re: definition of AI
    Date: 3 Dec 85 23:35:21 GMT
    Organization: Tektronix, Beaverton OR
    Here's another "off-the-cuff" definition of AI, but one which I
    think captures the essence of what separates AI CS from regular CS.
    Artificial Intelligence is the branch of Computer Science that
    attempts to solve problems for which there is no known
    efficient solution, but which we know are efficiently solvable,
    (typically) because some intelligence can solve the problem
    (often in "real time").
    A side benefit of AI is that it helps us learn how intelligences
    solve these problems, and thus how natural intelligence works.
    Example: vision.  We do not have any algorithms for recognizing,
    say, animal faces in images, but we know it must be possible,
    because humans (even infants) can effectively recognize faces.
    Solving this problem would help us understand how human vision

  11. John McCarthy's (1988) analysis of what AI is and his (2007) response to "What Is Artificial Intelligence"?

  12. A newsgroup discussion on Aaron Sloman's (1989) analysis of what AI is.

  13. Article 13305 of
    From: Ralf.Brown@B.GP.CS.CMU.EDU
    Subject: Re: Cyc
    Date: 4 Aug 92 13:31:03 GMT
    Organization: Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science
    In article <>, (Randy Crawford) wrote:
    }I like the quote I heard recently (questioningly attributed to McCarthy), 
    }"AI is everything we can't do with today's computers."
    Another one I like is
    	"AI is making computers act like those in movies."
    Internet: RALF+@CS.CMU.EDU   |The University would disclaim this if it knew...
    FIDO: Ralf Brown 1:129/26.1  |"Wisdom is the quality that keeps you from
    BIT: RALF%CS.CMU.EDU@CARNEGIE| getting into situations where you need it."
    AT&Tnet: (412)268-3053 school|		-- Doug Larson

  14. A discussion among Stuart C. Shapiro, Sargur N. Srihari, and Bharat Jayraman on what AI is.

  15. Article: 22490 of
    From: rkeene@pixelplow.Central.Sun.COM (Dick Keene [Sun Market Development Software Engineer])
    Subject: Re: Definition of AI (was Re: Gell-Mann's "FLA
    Date: 9 Jun 1994 16:35:49 GMT
    Organization: Sun Microsystems, Inc.
    	Warning: Cynical Definition...
    	My definition of AI is any algorithm that is new in computer
    	science.  Once the algorithm becomes accepted then it's
    	not AI, it's just a boring algorithm.
    	At one time windows, mouse, menus, scroolbars etc. were considered
    	an AI technique for makeing computers understand natural language.
    	(The menus are a list of valid words the system understands)
    	This is also why I study "Cognition", not AI.
    	R. Keene

  16. Artificial intelligence is concerned with the attempt to develop complex computer programs that will be capable of performing difficult cognitive tasks. (Eysenck, Michael W. (1990), "Artificial Intelligence," in M.W. Eysenck (ed.), The Blackwell Dictionary of Cognitive Psychology (Oxford: Basil Blackwell): 22.)

  17. "We define AI as the study of agents that receive percepts from the environment and perform actions ... the study of rational-agent design" (Russell, Stuart J.; & Norvig, Peter (2003), Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach; Second Edition (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education): vii, 5).

  18. In "AI," how to interpret the "A" is not a big issue, and the troubles come mostly from the "I." ... Intelligence is the capacity of an information-processing system to adapt to its environment while operating with insufficient knowledge and resources. (Wang, Pei (2019), "On Defining Artificial Intelligence", Journal of Artificial General Intelligence 10(2): 1-37; for a critique of this, see Rapaport, William J. (2020), "What Is Artificial Intelligence?", Journal of Artificial General Intelligence 11(2): 52-56.

Also see:

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