Artificial Intelligence (AI) is often defined as a machine that is intelligent, or one that can think rationally.

From a high-level perspective, things like self-driving car or Alpha-Go can easily be classified as an AI system, while things like a washing machine that follows a strict sequential program is not considered as AI.

However, what confused me is that when looking at the definition from a low-level perspective, there does not seem to be a clear distinction between AI and non-AI.

For example, consider an Artificial Neural Network from Deep Learning. Fundamentally, it is just a complex non-linear function. Why is this considered AI while a washing machine is not considered that?

Is it because of the learning involved? But then path-finding will not considered as AI too.

Is it because of the calculations? But then traditional calculators will be considered as AI.

Is there even a clear distinction between AI and a sequential program? Or is it just a vague term that is only valid when viewed from a high-level perspective?

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    $\begingroup$ That question doesn't really make sense. AI is a field of study, and a sequential program is a list of instructions. $\endgroup$ Commented May 6, 2021 at 8:57
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    $\begingroup$ What I am asking is how can I draw the line between AI and non-AI? Is there a definition that can distinctly separate these two? $\endgroup$
    – covector
    Commented May 6, 2021 at 9:10
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    $\begingroup$ There is no clear-cut line, partly because there is no clear standard definition of AI. For example, many people would call a washing machine with a fuzzy logic chip AI; but is it really? $\endgroup$ Commented May 6, 2021 at 9:19

1 Answer 1


No. As of now, there is no clear distinction between AI and a sequential program. The biggest reason is that there is no officially agreed definition of AI. Since AI researchers themselves hold different opinions of AI, the field itself is constantly redefined regularly, there is no clear-cut distinction between AI and non-AI.

  • $\begingroup$ Our prof used to say that AI is cool things that computers cannot do. $\endgroup$ Commented May 7, 2021 at 19:39
  • $\begingroup$ Whether or not the academic community can agree on a formal basic definition, AI will continue to function! (I wouldn't be surprised if AI is fully able to define humanity before scholars can agree on something so simple as "an artefact that makes a decision". $\endgroup$
    – DukeZhou
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 0:06

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