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Artificial Intelligence — 5 Comments

  1. Excellent summary of a tricky topic.

    Back when I was an MIT undergrad, more than 40 years ago, I used to hang out at the MIT Artificial Intelligence lab, and I have stayed in touch with some of those friends. They did, and do, cool work, but none of it is what I would call “intelligence” in the human sense.

    I noticed a telling difference when I was a novice, working in a sheltered workshop for severely mentally retarded men (IQ less than 40 or so). These men could not count past three; but they could speak English. Clearly what they had, and what they lacked, was completely different from what a computer has (and lacks).

    We tend to make analogies for intelligence with whatever the most complicated thing we have in our existence. Freud compared people to steam engines; we compare them to computers. Both comparisons may lead to a useful insight or two, but we shouldn’t think that the human brain is just a really complicated computer, any more than it is a really complicated steam engine!

  2. One of my professors used to joke that the definition of AI was “anything that we haven’t done yet”.

    It’s interesting to see how the predictions about the number of years it will take to achieve AI have increased over time. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was 10 or 20 years. Now it’s 100 years. Those rosy early predictions all but killed funding, research, and advances in some fields, such as machine translation (an area of natural language processing), when they didn’t pan out as predicted.

    An excellent, short, very readable book is _Minds, Brains, and Science_ by the philosopher John Searle. He argues against the “strong AI” view, which, as Br. Guy pointed out, tends to use the latest technology as the basis for comparison to the human brain.

  3. Being that the best contribution I can make on this subject is my experience of AI in movies, I would hope that, if AI would ever work, it would look a lot like TARS from Interstellar! Many movie attempts to present AI display more of a trend toward trying to make a more fascinating human instead of creating an artificial intelligence. TARS is clearly AI with human traits versus a human that is actually AI. Then again, it didn’t hurt that I really found Interstellar to be very thought provoking and TARS was, ironically, the character I enjoyed the most!

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