A comp.ai.philosophy FAQ

June 22, 2001 version

Copyright 1999-2001 by Donald R. Tveter, http://www.dontveter.com, commercial use is prohibited. This material cannot be quoted at length or posted elsewhere on the net or included in CD ROM collections. Short quotations are permitted provided proper attribution is given.


The original, main goal of AI was to produce systems that exhibit all the intelligence and creativity of human beings and perhaps even produce systems that are superior to human beings. When this proved to be hard, a secondary goal developed, it is to produce relatively small useful systems that do tasks that in people would require intelligence. The systems may or may not exhibit actual intelligence. A system without intelligence might be one that uses a fixed algorithm but which nevertheless does something you would normally think requires intelligence.

For the most part the newsgroup comp.ai and its various subgroups consider the second aspect of the subject, they deal with the specific algorithms that will do this and that, making them somewhat technical groups. If you've got a question or comment along those lines post it in the appropriate subgroup or if none of them is appropriate post in comp.ai. You may want to check the comp.ai FAQ first, its available from:

Note that comp.ai is now moderated so your post may not show up for a while and if it doesn't fit the moderator's idea of what is appropriate it will not show up at all.

Its a fact of life that many people interested in AI do not like philosophical discussions because such discussions never settle anything and in fact comp.ai.philosophy was created so that those discussions would not clutter up comp.ai. Since posters did not voluntarily follow the guidelines the readers of comp.ai voted to moderate the group to keep out off-topic and frivolous posts.

For the most part comp.ai.philosophy considers the original goal of AI, technical details of systems are few and the discussion centers around definitions of terms, the means that will be required for producing a general purpose intelligence like a human being and even whether or not it can be done at all.

Also don't forget that Dejanews lists discussions from all newsgroups, if its an answer you want it may have already come up and all you have to do is search for it. Sergio Navega has a collection of some of the more important recent discussions in comp.ai.philosophy.

This comp.ai.philosophy FAQ is at: http://www.dontveter.com/caipfaq. Also there is a file caipfaq.zip that contains all the files in this FAQ, you can download it and read it off-line.

Some articles cited here are on the net, often in the form of postscript or tex files. For dealing with these files see the page: Dealing with Postscript and Tex.


Every document contains some bias and this FAQ is no exception. Just so you know ahead of time: my bias is that digital computing and neural computing probably are not going anywhere in terms of producing a human-like intelligence, quantum computing may be what is necessary and without it no artificial system will be able to compete with a human mind. This makes me considerably less optimistic about AI's short-term prospects than many people in AI and it also puts me on the fringe of AI Philosophy. Once upon a time I was overly enthusiastic but as I learned more about AI I become less optimistic at least about AI's short-term prospects. I'm sure then that many readers without my bias will end up being upset with my pessimism as well as with the way the discussion is laid out but then if you have a reasonably well-thought out position I may link to a page of yours or include your thoughts in these pages or link to other pages you may know of.

Recent Changes

See the recent changes page.

The Topics

The following list of questions summarizes the topics that come up in comp.ai.philosophy. The questions are not always asked this way but I chose to state them this way because the typical questions and comments revolve around certain basic elements of the subject matter. To get things going I've written in answers that I like but I earnestly want to be able to reference online articles and pages that speak to the issues as well. Sometimes these articles speak to more than the topic at hand.

1) What Should the Definition of Artificial Intelligence Be?

2) The "what is" questions that are so fundamental to all the debates, settle these and most discussion will vanish:

3) How would we know when we actually have intelligence, thinking, understanding, creativity, consciousness and emotions in an artificial system? This includes the following topics:

4) How soon will we have an artificial system that will have all these capabilities?

5) What kind of hardware and algorithms will it take to produce intelligence, thinking, understanding, creativity, consciousness and emotions in an artificial system? This includes the following topics:

6) What effects will the existence of real artificial intelligence have on society?.

Related Web Pages


I want to thank the following people for helping extend this work:

If you have any questions or comments, write me.

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