Media discussions on Artificial Intelligence focus mostly on two aspects – fear or hype. So a refeshingly balanced article on LiveScience, What is Artificial Intelligence?, is well worth a read!
The AI hype, as put forth by most of its advocates, is way off! It is probably used to attract venture capital or create waves in the media, such as when Google and IBM proudly claim things like: “look how great our innovations are – our AI beat this and this human expert!”. In a recent blog Prof. Roger Schank correctly stated about IBM Watson: “They are not doing “cognitive computing” no matter how many times they say they are”.
In fact, linking intelligence and knowledge to machine learning (ML) is a mistake. However, the statistical analysis ML provides to support human intelligence is in fact extremely useful when correctly positioned.
The other extreme — fear — manifest itself in thoughts such as: ‘AI is taking our jobs, or even eliminating us it makes computers that are smarter than us!’ Hmm…yes, but it’s not so hard to be smarter than us. How many jobs have already been taken by industrial robots in the past 40 years? How many jobs, that we consider as ‘intellectual’, has software already replaced? The list is very long! This is evolution — the hammer was more powerful and precise than the hand — the wheel helped us transport — the computer replaced all secretaries and printers that had been working more or less the same way for hundreds of years and renamed them in different functions.
So, what’s the difference? Why are we as human beings worried when a statistical pattern matching algorithm puts forward answers that are better than ours? Is our long term memory weak when combined with a problem solving task? Yes, cognitively this is a weak point! Very few people excel to greatness combining long term memory knowledge and task resolution – they are people we admire! Just a second, though – should we? Perhaps it is alright to allow a computer take over this part?
As human beings we excel at complex high speed decisions — grabbing a child about to run into the street in front of a car — danger is our element — I remember as a teenager steering a car off the road and up a steep hill. I realized the brakes didn’t work — in front was a stopped lorry because of a single lane bridge and a facing car coming across. The police asked if I was drunk, since my knees were so weak I couldn’t stand. After examining the car they said “she saved your lives”. AI would have been too slow and unintelligent to sum up all the factors and decide to leave the road it was programmed to stay on!
This is key – in AI everything we are talking about is programming – ML is just an algorithm. The hype is that we don’t know what it does – sure we do! However, much of the fusion between ML and human knowledge is still to be explored beyond simple training interactions and knowledge systems such as ontologies. These provide a bottleneck since ontology creation is costly and many try to apply ML to the task of creating knowledge resources. However, I would stay clear of using such resources for anything but gisting due to the error rate. This would endanger lives in self driving cars and other applications.
Yes, our world is changing and guess what it always has? Fears hold evolution back and delay the inevitable progress we face! What must change is the outdated economical system that underpins unequal wealth distribution and economic corruption – this is not the task of engineers but economists and governments – but perhaps we replace them first since they are obviously making very bad decisions 🙂
Our innovative and creative mind could be assisted by computers or will they be like other humans – the pessimistic Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh: nah this wont work – doomed to fail – etc.. – sure if we program them to do just that!
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