Artificial intelligence (AI), sometimes called machine intelligence, is intelligence demonstrated by machines, unlike the natural intelligence displayed by humans and animals. Leading AI textbooks define the field as the study of intelligent agents: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of successfully achieving its goals. Colloquially, the term “artificial intelligence” is often used to describe machines (or computers) that mimic cognitive functions that humans associate with the human mind, such as learning and problem solving.
Thought-capable artificial beings have been a persistent theme in science fiction. I grew up reading Isaac Asimov’s collection of short stories from the 1950s, “I, Robot”. Asimov’s 1942 short story “Runaround” elaborates his fictional Three Laws of Robotics, which are ingrained in the positronic brains of nearly all of his robots. The Three Laws of Robotics are a set of rules devised to protect humans from interactions with robots:
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.