ALL THE TALK ABOUT ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE APPEARS TO BE JUST THAT, TALK...
A recent article in Forbes loudly purported to provide us with "10 Powerful Examples Of Artificial Intelligence In Use Today". Unfortunately, not one of the examples cited represents a true instantiation of Intelligence, artificial or otherwise.
I'll give you the list in just a minute. But let's first take a look at the notion of "intelligence".
Most dictionary definitions run something like this one from Merriam Webster:
Note that a core component of intelligence is being able to understand and deal with new and trying situations.
Sometimes the program is self-correcting and self-learning ― that is, it captures and incorporates data concerning which responses fail to be understood by the customer, and modifies its future responses by taking into account this new data. It does not, however, improve its own logical structure. Or question the premises built into its controlling algorithm.
That is, it does not reach beyond being a binary "counting machine" that employs two-value logic, notwithstanding that it exhibits a rudimentary form of self-learning and self-correction based on the expansion of its empirical database.
I will acknowledge emergent machine intelligence when a computer-based entity says, "Shit, why can't I get that right?" ― even though neither that expression nor the condition for generating it has been pre-programmed into the system...
Now, let's take a look at the purported ten powerful examples of AI in use today. They are:
1) Siri, 2) Alexa, 3) Tesla, 4) Cogito, 5) Boxever, 6) John Paul, 7) Amazon.com, 8) Netflix, 9) Pandora, and 10) Nest.
The interesting thing about this list is that not a single entry is intelligent in any meaningful way. Indeed, the author of the Forbes article, R. L. Adams, says of these programs that they are
"... merely advanced machine learning software with extensive behavioral algorithms that adapt themselves to our likes and dislikes. While extremely useful, these machines aren't getting smarter in the existential sense, but they are improving their skills and usefulness based on a large dataset."
In other words, they know or understand squat. They are, in fact, eminently Un-intelligent, however well they perform the functions they were designed to handle.
Whence the hype about the rapidly approaching Singularity of AI? I suggest it comes not so much from the Prophets as from the Profits of AI...
It's simply good for the wallet ― or research coffers ― to tout the imminent arrival of world-changing artificial intelligence.Am I being overly cynical? Take a look at who the leading honchos of AI are and for whom, in the main, they work.
The fact is we are Asimov-light-years away from developing true artificial intelligence ―which will most likely involve, I submit, first developing organic artificial neural networks.
What we have now is a pile of public relations and science-business marketing that seeks to dazzle us with what are essentially parlor tricks like autonomous automobiles and self-piloting ships. These are not and will not be "intelligent" ― unless and until they can do things such as assess imminent danger to life and learn to make life-and-death decisions independent of being pre-programmed to simply count rapidly through a finite and limited number of alternative scenarios and programmer-weighted results. Until then, we'll be left with AUI (artificial un-intelligence). ― Phil Friedman
Postscript: One of the best, most concise pieces I've run across on this topic is "The Future of Artificial Intelligence" by Dr. Mark Humphrys, presented as a talk to the "Next Generation" symposium, Jesus College, Cambridge, Aug 1997. The piece is brilliantly insightful and marvelously written. Check it out.
Author's Notes: This piece is the first in a what is turning out to be a series on Artificial Intelligence that I am writing. The series is from a layman's point of view, one that is not filtered through the eyes and judgment of someone with a vested interest in the hyping of AI. If you'd care to read the other articles in the series, they are:
1) "Artificial Un-Intelligence"
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About me, Phil Friedman: With some 30 years background in the marine industry, I've worn different hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I'm also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation.
In a previous life, I was formally trained as an academic philosopher and taught logic and philosophy at university.
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