What is Artificial Intelligence?

The term Artificial Intelligence (AI) was coined by John McCarthy in 1956. According to him AI is defined as "the science and engineering of making intelligent machines."

The Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary gives us the following two meanings:

1 : the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior

2 : a branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers

As we can see, today the primary meaning of the term is to denote any non-human or non-biological and hence "artificial" entity capable of imitating "intelligent" human behavior. What we may need to add is that while the original meaning pertained exclusively to mechanistic entities such as robots and computers, today the term can be used to denote electronic, digital, virtual or other non-biological and/or disembodied entities which exhibit the function of intelligence.

The main issues here are:

Can machines really attain Artificial Intelligence similar (or better) to that of humans?

If yes, then, how can we tell the difference between dumb computers, which are no more than sophisticated calculators, and artificial intellects (AI)?

If possible at all, then, how long do we have before we can expect the birth of true AI?

There are a few answers to the above question and all of them are controversial. For example, Dutch computer scientist Edsger Wybe Dijkstra famously said that:

"The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim."

Yet, among those who do not take computer thinking for self-evident, the original tool for assessing machine intelligence (or an artilect) is the Turing Test.

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