Artificial intelligence (AI) is the intelligence of machines and the branch of computer science that aims to create it.
The holy grail of AI is human level general artificial intelligence - that is the development of a computer that is as smart as a human in every way. This is probably a long way off - some optimistic pundits believe human level general AI might be possible by about 2045.
Narrow AI (computers that can do some things better than humans) on the other hand is already here. On 14 February 2011 a computer named Watson defeated two champion game show contestants.
Implications for Local Government
The sorts of capabilities demonstrated by Watson have a few local government related applications. One of the first application might be in call centres, to refer callers to the officer most suited to answer an enquiry.
The technology might also be a good way of capturing corporate knowledge.
An even more ambitious application might be a whole of government question answering system. It could be used by public servants, local government staff, elected members & the general public. The system could work its way through the ever expanding treasure trove of government open data, and make it much more useful to everyone. Watson was named for the founder of IBM, so perhaps the Australian Government version could be named Barton.