“At some point in the early twenty-first century all of mankind was united in celebration. We marveled at our own magnificence as we gave birth to AI. – Morpheus, The Matrix

The mystery of human intelligence has troubled human thinkers since they first became sentient. What is intelligence? What aspects of their nature allows them to possess it? And once the computing means to complete such a task became even remotely within reach – Would it be possible to create an artificial intelligence?

If so, what exactly would such a creation entail? The term artificial is fairly straightforward – merely something that is not the product off natural evolution and is instead created by humans. Usually, the construction of an artificial intelligence is assumed to involve electronic computers, but this is not inherent in the term – computers are merely the best means currently available for such a creation.

Then what is intelligence? It is generally assumed that human beings have it, if only because they have chosen it to be that way. It is formally defined as “the capacity to acquire and apply knowledge” and “the faculty of thought and reason.” But to a human, intelligence would seem to be more than that. Humans are capable of abstract thought, imagining things that may not even lie in the realm of possible existence. They are creative in addition to rational, spontaneously forming new ideas without any apparent inspiration. Intelligence is the ability to solve difficult problems effectively, imagining new methods that aren’t necessarily based on pure computational force.

When one examines the problem of formalizing an intelligent system into any of the traditional logical structures, intelligence becomes nearly impossible to define. Humans do not yet know how to program general creativity. On the other hand, as John bon Neumann observed in 1948, “You insist that there is something a machine cannot do. If you will tell me precisely what it is that a machine cannot do, then I can always make a machine which will do just that!”

von Neumann’s assertion is that it is possible for humans to create a machine to effectively do any specific task that a human can do (and more). But without a deeper understanding of what it is exactly that humans do, it will be impossible to create a machine that can do every specific task that a human can do.

As the understanding that humans possess of their own intelligence increases, they will approach the magnificent creation of the first artificial intelligence. One must examine, however, the creation of artificial intelligence from philosophical, practical, and ethical perspectives.