An artificial intellect (or "artilect"), according to Dr. Hugo de Garis, is a computer intelligence superior to that of humans in one or more spheres of knowledge together with an implicit will to use the intelligence. Artilects are the concern of artificial intelligence specialists (or "intelligists") like de Garis, who speculates that human society may soon have to face the question of whether and how we can restrain artificial intelligence from making decisions inimical to humans.
Dr. de Garis assumes that within one or two generations, we will have computers that are more sophisticated than human brains with the ability to experimentally evolve their intelligence into something much beyond what humans might contemplate or understand. de Garis wonders whether such machines would consider human beings important enough to preserve. He speculates that society will soon need to face the question of whether we should permit artilects to be built. He foresees two factions arising: the Cosmists, who argue that they should be built, and the Terras, believing that they should not. The Cosmists might believe that artilects would probably want to leave our planet to seek intelligences elsewhere in the universe. The Terras believe that it would be too dangerous for the human race to allow artilects to be developed.