Artificial Intelligence

What is Artificial Intelligence?

What is Artificial Intelligence?

There is no consensual definition of artificial intelligence. We have asked our experts to answer what is Artificial Intelligence?

There is not an agreed-upon definition of Artificial Intelligence, but many have tried to define it.


Ramón Llull’s (a 13th century, medieval polymath, a herald to the technology) ideas on religion led him to devise a sentient, mechanical wheel that would support or refute arguments, bestowing artificial reasoning on the Christian faith.

Nuria Oliver, during the speech she gave when she accepted her position at the Spanish Royal Academy of Engineering (RAI, by its acronym in Spanish), traced the origins of AI back to the ancient world, with the first automatons that released Hephaestus (the Greek God of fire and metalworking) from his work.

By the mid-20th century, one of the so-called fathers of AI as we know it today, Marvin Minsky, defined it as “the science of making machines do things that would require intelligence if done by humans.”

José Manuel Molina, professor of Computer Science and AI at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, points out that AI is basically a set of algorithms (a sequence of steps) executed by a machine.

The current boom in AI is related to deep learning and machine learning. According to SAS, the multinational software company, it automates analytical model building by analyzing large amounts of data to identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention, essentially learning on its own.

However, AI in its current form is limited, and its techniques are the same it had 30 years ago. Only the advances made in infrastructure and computational capacity have made AI able to respond to more needs and have allowed for new applications to emerge. This is why some experts doubt that AI is the right term.


Pablo Gervás, the director of the Natural Interaction based on Language research group at the Instituto Tecnología del Conocimiento (Knowledge Technology Institute) of the Complutense University of Madrid, points out that even though each of AI’s separate capabilities can be considered part of intelligence, they aren’t inherently intelligent. Machines need to develop plenty of capabilities and, above all, know how to combine them and switch from one to the other.

Ramón López de Mántaras asserts that no program or machine has ever passed the Turing test, which evaluates if a machine can exhibit intelligent behavior indistinguishable from that of a human by text. This defines AI as a system based on competence without comprehension, an idea that is widely shared and debated throughout the scientific community. It was first explained by the philosopher of mind and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett. He believes that, a few years down the road, AI may be able to understand and read a text, but nowadays it can only read it, without any sort of comprehension.  Other experts find AI’s ability to comprehend irrelevant, since AI’s purpose is to learn and imitate intelligent behavior.


According to our trustee and famous neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, AI is nothing more than “a practical tool that humans created in order to expand their abilities and improve their existence.” He believes that it is part of how we evolve.

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Related experts

Christopher Markou
Christopher Markou

Leverhulme Fellow and Lecturer en University of Cambridge

Raul Rojas
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Professor of AI at Freie Universität

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Jade Leung
Jade Leung

Partner at Apollo

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Fiona J McEvoy

Founder of YouTheData.com

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Lauren Dyson

Senior Data Scientist at Open Labs R&D

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Senior Research Team Member and Manager at IBM Research

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Pilar Manchón
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