Minds and Machines

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 71-85

First online:

The Superintelligent Will: Motivation and Instrumental Rationality in Advanced Artificial Agents

  • Nick BostromAffiliated withFaculty of Philosophy, Oxford Martin School, Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University Email author 

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This paper discusses the relation between intelligence and motivation in artificial agents, developing and briefly arguing for two theses. The first, the orthogonality thesis, holds (with some caveats) that intelligence and final goals (purposes) are orthogonal axes along which possible artificial intellects can freely vary—more or less any level of intelligence could be combined with more or less any final goal. The second, the instrumental convergence thesis, holds that as long as they possess a sufficient level of intelligence, agents having any of a wide range of final goals will pursue similar intermediary goals because they have instrumental reasons to do so. In combination, the two theses help us understand the possible range of behavior of superintelligent agents, and they point to some potential dangers in building such an agent.


Superintelligence Artificial intelligence AI Goal Instrumental reason Intelligent agent