What is intelligence?

"Intelligence" is a broad term which is applied to many different things: humans, computer programs, animals, groups, and natural optimization processes (like biological evolution). In the context of AI, "intelligence" typically refers to the ability of computer systems to perform cognitive tasks. See how various people have defined it here.

The concept of intelligence tends to be applied differently to machines than humans — describing one AI as "more intelligent" than another AI means something different than describing one human as more intelligent than another human1. AI systems today can outperform humans at specific tasks such as information retrieval, chess, and protein structure prediction, but struggle to match the diverse range of tasks humans can handle.

In this context, "intelligence" doesn’t necessarily imply other properties often associated with intelligence in humans, such as acting morally or being conscious.

Some have suggested that we should avoid using the term “intelligence” in the context of machines. Instead, we might talk about what capabilities systems have, how competent they are, or how general they are.

  1. This may contribute to the "AI effect", which describes the historical tendency to redefine AI as anything yet to be achieved ↩︎