Neurosymbolic Artificial Intelligence (Why, What, and How)

Document Type



Humans interact with the environment using a combination of perception - transforming sensory inputs from their environment into symbols, and cognition - mapping symbols to knowledge about the environment for supporting abstraction, reasoning by analogy, and long-term planning. Human perception-inspired machine perception, in the context of AI, refers to large-scale pattern recognition from raw data using neural networks trained using self-supervised learning objectives such as next-word prediction or object recognition. On the other hand, machine cognition encompasses more complex computations, such as using knowledge of the environment to guide reasoning, analogy, and long-term planning. Humans can also control and explain their cognitive functions. This seems to require the retention of symbolic mappings from perception outputs to knowledge about their environment. For example, humans can follow and explain the guidelines and safety constraints driving their decision-making in safety-critical applications such as healthcare, criminal justice, and autonomous driving. While datadriven neural network-based AI algorithms effectively model machine perception, symbolic knowledge-based AI is better suited for modeling machine cognition. This is because symbolic knowledge structures support explicit representations of mappings from perception outputs to the knowledge, enabling traceability and auditing of the AI system’s decisions. Such audit trails are useful for enforcing application aspects of safety, such as regulatory compliance and explainability, through tracking the AI system’s inputs, outputs, and intermediate steps. This first article in the Neurosymbolic AI department introduces and provides an overview of the rapidly emerging paradigm of Neurosymbolic AI, combining neural networks and knowledge-guided symbolic approaches to create more capable and flexible AI systems. These systems have immense potential to advance both algorithm-level (e.g., abstraction, analogy, reasoning) and application-level (e.g., explainable and safety-constrained decision-making) capabilities of AI systems.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

APA Citation

Sheth, A., Roy, K., & Gaur, M. (2023). Neurosymbolic Artificial Intelligence (Why, What, and How). IEEE Intelligent Systems, 38(3), 56–62.