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artificial general intelligence (AGI)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Artificial general intelligence (AGI) is the representation of generalized human cognitive abilities in software so that, faced with an unfamiliar task, the AI system could find a solution. An AGI system could perform any task that a human is capable of.

AGI, sometimes referred to as strong AI, involves a system with comprehensive knowledge and cognitive computing capabilities such that its performance is indistinguishable from that of a human, at least in those terms. However, the broad intellectual capacities of AGI would be boosted far beyond human capacities by its ability to access and process huge amounts of data at incredible speeds.

Strong AI contrasts with weak AI, which is the application of artificial intelligence to specific tasks or types of problems. IBM's Watson supercomputerexpert systems and the self-driving car are all examples of weak or narrow AI. Even in the current state of technology, the systems' ability to access and process data is impressive: ROSS, a legal expert system sometimes called the AI attorney, can mine data from about a billion text documents, analyze the information and provide precise responses to complicated questions in less than three seconds.

There are many experts who doubt that AGI will ever be possible, and there are also many who question whether it would be desirable. Stephen Hawking, for example, warned: "It [strong AI] would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete, and would be superseded."

See John Searle's Talk at Google on consciousness in AI:

This was last updated in July 2016

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