Skip to Main Content

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence - Defined

Artificial Intelligence can be difficult to define as many of the researchers in this field have differing opinions on what qualifies as AI.

AI is "The capacity of computers or other machines to exhibit or simulate intelligent behaviour" (OED,2019).

AI - The Family Tree

An important takeaway about Artificial Intelligence is that we do not currently have a "General AI" or something that is purely AI. The technology that we are seeing today contains elements of AI. If the application was a recipe, AI might only be a teaspoon or a cup in the overall result.

For that reason, we need to understand the different types of applications that fall under Artificial Intelligence in order to make sure we are staying aware of the trends.

Below is a tree that represents some, but not all, of the relationships between different applications and AI.


Evaluating AI - The ROBOT Test

Being AI Literate does not mean you need to understand the advanced mechanics of AI. It means that you are actively learning about the technologies involved and that you critically approach any texts you read that concern AI, especially news articles. 

We have created a tool you can use when reading about AI applications to help consider the legitimacy of the technology.







  • How reliable is the information available about the AI technology?
  • If it’s not produced by the party responsible for the AI, what are the author’s credentials? Bias?
  • If it is produced by the party responsible for the AI, how much information are they making available? 
    • Is information only partially available due to trade secrets?
    • How biased is they information that they produce?
  • What is the goal or objective of the use of AI?
  • What is the goal of sharing information about it?
    • To inform?
    • To convince?
    • To find financial support?


  • What could create bias in the AI technology?
  • Are there ethical issues associated with this?
  • Are bias or ethical issues acknowledged?
    • By the source of information?
    • By the party responsible for the AI?
    • By its users?


  • Who is the owner or developer of the AI technology?
  • Who is responsible for it?
    • Is it a private company?
    • The government?
    • A think tank or research group?
  • Who has access to it?
  • Who can use it?


  • Which subtype of AI is it?
  • Is the technology theoretical or applied?
  • What kind of information system does it rely on?
  • Does it rely on human intervention? 


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

To cite in APA: Hervieux, S. & Wheatley, A. (2020). The ROBOT test [Evaluation tool]. The LibrAIry.

McGill LibraryQuestions? Ask us!
Privacy notice