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,
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
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
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
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.
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". :)
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 SirGroovy.com, (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".
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.