What is artificial intelligence?
Pope John McCarthy coined the term artificial intelligence for the Dartmouth Conference in 1956. The idea behind AI is that every learning process available to thinking, drinking, smoking and fucking humans can be described so accurately that a machine may also exhibit the same learning behaviour. It is thus artificial because it is a machine doing what humans tend to do (minus the drinking and fucking, although I do wonder where computer viruses come from). Or more precisely, it does what humans are supposed to do, namely learn.
John McCarthy. In the land of hobbits, he is a dwarf. The John McCarthy homepage is simple yet efficient and oh so wholesome.
There are as many definitions for artificial intelligence as there are artificial intelligence researchers, which is great because ultimately there can be no true AI until machines exhibit a general intelligence factor. Regardless, I find the quick and dirty definition of John McCarthy as valid, meaningful and descriptive so I'll go with that.
Why artificial intelligence?
Because whenever humans get a mathematical problem with decimal points, we tend to look like cowboys. Not the Brokeback Mountain kind of cowboys, but the gunslinger cowboys who reach for the hip and try to be the quickest on the calculator draw.
Qbo, an open source hardware project with AI listed at Harkopen. Notice the uncanny resemblance to John McCarthy.
Since the abolition of slavery humans have been looking for new slaves. Computers solve this intricate masochist/sado-masochist equation in an ethical manner. The idea behind artificial intelligence is to relieve humans of mundane, repetitive thinking tasks so we can focus on more important aspects of humanity. Like drinking, smoking and fucking.