Friday, October 05, 2007

Reports of A.I.'s brain death have been greatly exaggerated

Wired magazine recently put out the Geekipedia, an encyclopedia of things geeky. The entry for Artificial Intelligence is terrible. I won't even link to it because it doesn't deserve a high ranking on Google. If you want to find it look here and search.

Anyway, I wrote a letter to the editors of Wired regarding this (thanks to Alison Way for editing). We'll see if they print it...

Reports of A.I.'s brain death have been greatly exaggerated

Wired's Geekipedia entry on Artificial Intelligence is disturbingly naive for an otherwise technologically literate magazine, repeating statements made in journalism over the years that have no empirical support that I've ever been able to find.

The great progress made in vision and walking are dismissed as not being A.I.-- a classic case of the "A.I. Effect," which makes people dismiss anything that actually works as not being A.I., thus robbing the field of its successes. By the way, the author neglects to dismiss, much less acknowledge, speech recognition.

Further, the 'pedia refers to A.I's practical returns as "meagre,"ignoring that A.I.s answer phone calls, schedule our gates at airports the world over, land the airplanes that fly us to and from these very gates, facilitate call centers, vacuum our floors, detect credit card fraud, destroy land minds, devise and run biology experiments, and have generated millions upon millions of dollars of savings. A single military scheduling application paid back DARPA's investment of 30years in AI research! Check out the chapter on AI successes in Kurzweil's "The Singularity is Near" for a summary. Without the deployed A.I. technology we have developed so far it is not overreaching to suggest that our world, as we know it, would grind to a halt.

The most absurd claim is the only one that is new-- that A.I.'ssupposed failure is due to a lack of consideration of philosophy! This claim is wrong on two counts. First, the A.I. community has always paid attention to philosophy, and taken its wisdom when it was useful. Second, to claim that "grappling with philosophy" will solve the grand problems of A.I. underestimates the technical complexity of commonsense thinking.

It's crazy as saying the we are never going to resolve quantum mechanics and relativity until we "grapple" with metaphysics.

Jim Davies, Assistant Professor

Institute of Cognitive Science

Carleton University, Ottawa


webb said...

+1 Insightful.

As soon as anything is understood and deployed, it magically becomes no-longer-AI. Somehow, people think AI has to mean "I'm sorry, Dave, I can't do that."

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