The robot scientist Eve (Manchester University)

Automated science as a vision for AI

Peter Sweeney
Published in
5 min readMay 30, 2017


Human intelligence is a misleading vision for AI. It’s bloatware, and bloatware can kill (or at least seriously delay) even the most determined projects.

The intelligence we need to create in machines isn’t a natural phenomenon, it’s a human invention. The goal isn’t artificial human intelligence, it’s automated scientific discovery.

The bloatware of intelligence

What is intelligence? It’s an inherently controversial and bloated question. Here are 70 definitions of intelligence, and this list barely scratches the surface. But whatever your working definition, the human variety of general intelligence is indisputably our best example.

Source: Lukasz Dunikowski

As such, conventional wisdom holds that the only reasonable archetype for artificial intelligence is human. But is it true?

“99 percent of human qualities and abilities are simply redundant” — Yuval Noah Harari

Experts would dispute this popular notion. Norvig and Stuart highlight that thinking and acting humanly is but one slice of AI; rationality is a peer level consideration. Clearly, we don’t need to reverse engineer every human instinct and product of our natural intelligence. As Yuval Noah Harari explains, “AI is nowhere near human-like existence, but 99 percent of human qualities and abilities are simply redundant for the performance of most modern jobs.”

So if human intelligence is bloatware, why is it such an enduring vision for AI? One explanation is its stickiness. Abstractions like rational agents can’t compete with the concreteness of artificial humans to inspire and motivate our efforts. Movies about androids are blockbusters; it’s hard to even recall movies about rationality.

Another explanation might simply be our tendency to imagine new technologies in the frame of old. Cars weren’t cars at first, they were horseless carriages. Telephones were speech-enabled telegraphs. In this context, the idea of AI as artificial human intelligence is certainly forgivable.



Peter Sweeney

Entrepreneur and inventor | 4 startups, 80+ patents | Writes on the science and philosophy of problem solving. | @petersweeney