The field of artificial intelligence has made great strides recently, as in AlphaGo's victories in the game of Go over world champion South Korean Lee Sedol in March 2016 and top-ranked Chinese Go player Ke Jie in May 2017, leading to great optimism for the field. But are we really moving toward smarter machines, or are these successes restricted to certain classes of problems, leaving others untouched? In 2015, the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) ran its first Allen AI Science Challenge, a competition to test machines on an ostensibly difficult task—answering eighth-grade science questions. Our motivations were to encourage the field to set its sights more broadly by exploring a problem that appears to require modeling, reasoning, language understanding, and commonsense knowledge in order to probe the state of the art while sowing the seeds for possible future breakthroughs.
Challenge problems have historically played an important role in motivating and driving progress in research. For a field striving to endow machines with intelligent behavior (such as language understanding and reasoning), challenge problems that test such skills are essential.