Forbes AI Report: Gigadeath to the Artilects!

Posted 23 Jun 2009 at 16:25 UTC by steve Share This

Forbes has posted a huge, mixed bag of interesting articles on AI and robots. They're calling it their AI Report. David Gelernter contributes the article, "What Happened to Theoretical AI". There are also articles from AGI folks, like Ben Goertzel's "AI And What To Do About It" which offers career advice for humans planning to live through the singularity. Even more loaded with singularity buzzwords is The Coming Artilect War by Hugo de Garis where you can read about artilect gods, Cosmists, Terrans, and Cyborgists duking it out in a post singularity world:

I see a war coming, the "Artilect War," not between the artilects and human beings, as in the movie Terminator, but between the Terrans, Cosmists and Cyborgists. This will be the worst, most passionate war that humanity has ever known ... There will be gigadeath

Maybe it's me but I keep expecting Xenu to get involved in all that gigadeath. Obviously, Hugo is as pessimistic about the singularity as Ray Kurzweil is optimistic. If reading singularity proselytes is more than you can take, there are plenty of other articles more grounded in science and philosophy such as The Ethical War Machine by Patrick Lin which addresses the legal and technical challenges of miltary robots; and Who Needs Humanoids by Helen Greiner who points out that when the first Roomba owners provided feedback, they weren't saying "I wish my Roomba was more human-like", they were saying "I wish my Roomba did a better job of cleaning the floor". Judea Pearl offers an article called "Giving Computers Free Will" but it turns out he believes free will is an illusion (as always, I recommend the more coherent explanation of free will offered by Daniel Dennett in Freedom Evolves).

imperfect information games, posted 24 Jun 2009 at 02:44 UTC by cjang » (Journeyer)

Despite the title about free will, the Judea Pearl essay is really about the use of stochastic methods in AI problems (note keywords "bayesian" and "counterfactual") as the way forward. That's the underlying theme to several of the articles. It's less about philosophy than it is the current state of the art in machine learning, optimization and game theory. A good example of this approach is the poker research from the U. of Alberta.

One thing I did not appreciate until reading these papers is that playing poker, an imperfect information game, requires far more computer power than playing a game like chess. The theory is much deeper and computational complexity greater. So while the popular culture still thinks of chess as an analogue for thought, the reality is that poker is a much better model problem. I was completely ignorant of convex optimization and game theory until a few weeks ago (when I started reading the research papers). It's exciting stuff. I suspect several of the authors for the Forbes AI Report feel the same way.

re: imperfect information games, posted 24 Jun 2009 at 15:42 UTC by steve » (Master)

yeah, I noticed he doesn't really mention free will except in the title and in the last paragraph where he claims it's an illusion. The rest of the essay is about mathematical techniques. Your phrase would have made a better title for his paper; "Stochastic Methods in AI: A Way Forward". :)

Unimpressed by Articles/Authors, posted 24 Jun 2009 at 20:25 UTC by Nelson » (Journeyer)

I was rather unimpressed with the quaility of several of the articles/authors.

Hugo de Garis (The Coming Artilect War) has a history of making wild promises that never materialize, but that do manage to attract million $ research grants.

Michael Vassar (Machine Minds), president of the Singularity Institute, formerly founder of, (music industry), who babbles endlessly about elephants and ducks, but does not appear to fully fathom the machine intelligence problem.

Ben Goertzel (AI And What To Do About It) looks like another snakeoil promoter who is looking for yet another sucker, like Augustus Melmotte in "The Way We Live Now".

very different audiences, posted 24 Jun 2009 at 21:01 UTC by cjang » (Journeyer)

Forbes probably encouraged provocative titles and themes to make the essays more attractive to a popular readership. There was tension from catering to very different audiences. The business world sees "quantitative science" as the solution to intractably large problems. The math/stat/CS people are just having fun with cool stuff. Neither viewpoint is very interesting to a popular audience. So to draw readers, more humanistic themes as from science fiction are necessary.

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