Windows & .NET Watch: AIn't happening
February 15, 2010 —
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Related Search Term(s): artificial intelligence
Alan Zeichick’s recent column reflecting on Artificial Intelligence and his time as editor of AI Expert magazine brought back warm memories for me. I first met Alan at a conference on neural networks in San Diego, and we hit it off immediately, talking all things machine learning as we searched for the best steakhouse in the Gaslamp Quarter.
In the first five decades of computing, the idea of an “electronic brain” was not only considered inevitable, but the raison d’etre of computers. Vision, speech, ruthless logic… these things were considered foregone conclusions. We were left only to speculate about whether computers could actually have emotions (“My mind is going Dave. I can feel it…”) or could only simulate them (“An empathy test? Capillary dilation of the so-called blush response?”).
Today, it turns out that computers are very handy for facilitating communication between humans. What percentage of time spent in front of a screen is e-mail, Web surfing or updating Facebook? Oh, and video games. This is all well and good, but not what was expected (to be fair, there was that Star Trek episode where the ship’s log was doctored to implicate Kirk in the murder of some dude. It’s almost like Climategate).
But as far as understanding, much less anticipating, what we want from them, computers stink. Voice recognition has become marginally successful, but the algorithms used are based on statistics, not interpretation.
One of the characteristics of intelligence that seems essential is that there be an inflection point where the growth of intelligence becomes self-sustaining. At some point, an intelligent being takes over its own education and begins generating its own conclusions, including intermediate conclusions, discovering holes in its knowledge, seeking out answers, and so forth. In classic sci-fi, this was sometimes portrayed as a razor-sharp inflection point: “Is there a God?” “There is now.”
Other times, it was a slower, more mysterious change that takes place over time, as it does with our only natural example: the growth of children. However it plays out, such an inflection is needed to produce something worthy of the name intelligence (whether a human-like intelligence is the only type of intelligence “worthy of the name” is another issue).