[Ads-l] Word: agentic (particularly applied to machine intelligence)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jun 1 16:17:21 UTC 2023

Researchers at NVIDIA, Caltech, UT Austin, Stanford, and Arizona State
University recently released a paper titled "Voyager: An Open-Ended
Embodied Agent with Large Language Models":


The paper described an AI system that plays the computer game
Minecraft while employing an LLM (large language model). Minecraft has
a "technology tree" which must be uncovered and exploited to make
progress in the game.

A newsletter called "The Memo" tracks developments in artificial
intelligence. The word "agentic" was used while discussing this paper
about Minecraft. (The word "agentic" does not appear in the research
paper itself.)

Date: May 29, 2023
Newsletter: The Memo - 30/May/2023
Author: Alan D. Thompson

[Begin excerpt]
This may look like just a silly game, but think further out… LLMs
becoming agentic (the ability to act on their own: having goals,
reasoning, and monitoring their own behaviour) is the equivalent of
humans having created new life. And this new life is already
optimizing skill development, and 'lifelong learning' within an

It may be that this discovery is a big milestone in our history.
Expect the next iteration of this concept to drive real use cases
impacting our physical world—and all our lives.
[End excerpt]

Wiktionary has an entry for "agentic". Below are the two most
pertinent senses, but none of the quotations are applied to machine
intelligence. The first quotation is dated 1985.

[Begin excerpt]
1. That behaves like an agent: able to express or expressing agency or
control on one's own behalf or on the behalf of another.
. . .
4. (psychology) Having agency; able to make independent decisions in
pursuit of a goal.
[End excerpt]

Here is a 2010 instance of "agentic" applied to robot-like behavior.

Date: 2010
Author: Louis-Philippe Demers
Article: Machine performers: Neither agentic nor automatic

[Begin excerpt]
By playing role between the agent and the automatic, the robotic
performer can explore some of the disturbing ambiguities associated
with the machine's uncanny paint of agency. The Uncanny Valley might
lie where the perception starts oscillating between the function
(automatic) and the intention (agentic). In other words, the valley is
where the perception oscillates between the inert / mechanical and the
quasi-life qualities of the robot.
[End excerpt]

Here is a 2016 instance of "agentic" applied to artificial intelligence.

Date: submitted Apr 23, 2016; revised Oct 10, 2016
Article title: Limits to Verification and Validation of Agentic Behavior
Author: David J. Jilk

[Begin excerpt]
Verification and validation of agentic behavior have been suggested as
important research priorities in efforts to reduce risks associated
with the creation of general artificial intelligence (Russell et al
2015). In this paper we question the appropriateness of using language
of certainty with respect to efforts to manage that risk. We begin by
establishing a very general formalism to characterize agentic behavior
and to describe standards of acceptable behavior. We show that
determination of whether an agent meets any particular standard is not
[End excerpt]

The word "agentic" does not have an entry in the OED. It does appear
in a 2003 quotation under the noun substantivity.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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