The path to human-level AI, or artificial general intelligence (AGI) is the quest to build a true thinking machine and it is — at least for me — the most exciting topic in AI.

What is Artificial General Intelligence?

AGI is typically considered to be more or less synonymous with the terms human-level AI or strong AI. You’ve likely seen several examples of AGI — but they have all been in the realm of science fiction. HAL from 2001 A Space Odyssey, the Enterprise’s main computer (or Mr. Data) from Star Trek, C3PO from Star Wars and Agent Smith from The Matrix are all examples of AGI. Each of these fictional systems would be capable of passing the Turing Test — in other words, these AI systems could carry out a conversation so that they would be indistinguishable from a human being.

AGI has really been the holy grail of the field right from the beginning when Alan Turing published his famous paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” which proposed the Turing Test — a test that would deem a computer intelligent if it could carry out a conversation in a way that made it indistinguishable from a person.

The Future of AGI, According to the Brightest Minds in AI

The people that I interview in my book, Architects of Intelligence are the brightest minds in the Artificial Intelligence community. Some of whom have made seminal contributions that directly underlie the transformations we see all around us; others have founded companies that are pushing the frontiers of AI, robotics and machine learning.

The path of AGI is a topic I talk about in every conversation and I think it is one of the most fascinating parts of the book. I also asked everyone for a prediction of when AGI might be achieved, and there was a huge range of answers. Ray Kurzweil thinks it will happen in 2029, or just 10 years from now. This is a very aggressive prediction. Rodney Brooks believes it will take 180 years; the others mostly fall somewhere in between.

Everyone I talked to believes AGI is possible and will someday be achieved.

There is a great deal of disagreement about the particular approaches which will someday get us to AGI. People in the deep learning camp believe it will be neural networks all the way. Others think other more traditional approaches to AI, such as symbolic reasoning, which have lately been pushed aside by all the dramatic progress in deep learning will have to be brought back into the mix in order for real progress to occur.

The upshot is that there is really no easy way to summarize the answer to this fascinating question. The conversations in Architects of Intelligence provide a wealth of “insider” information, but is highly varied with many sharply conflicting opinions and predictions.

Originally published on Quora.


  • Martin Ford

    Futurist and NYT Bestselling Author Focused on AI, Robotics and the Future Economy

    Martin is a prominent futurist, NYT bestselling author and leading expert on artificial intelligence and robotics and their potential impact on the job market, economy, and society. His new book, Architects of Intelligence: The truth about AI from the people building it, was named Best Technology Book of 2018 by Financial Times. His book, Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future won the 2015 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award and has been translated into over 20 languages. Martin Ford speaks frequently to industry, academic and government audiences on the subject of technology and its implications for the future and is the founder of a Silicon Valley-based software development firm. His TED Talk on the impact of AI and robotics on the economy and society, given on the main stage at the 2017 TED Conference, has been viewed more than 2 million times. Martin has over 25 years of experience in the fields of computer design and software development and holds a degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a graduate degree in business from the Anderson Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles.