Monday, January 3, 2011

The new face of Artificial Intelligence

Wired article on the AI revolution

From the article: 
"The Kiva bots may not seem very smart. They don’t possess anything like human intelligence and certainly couldn’t pass a Turing test. But they represent a new forefront in the field of artificial intelligence. Today’s AI doesn’t try to re-create the brain. Instead, it uses machine learning, massive data sets, sophisticated sensors, and clever algorithms to master discrete tasks." 
At first glance, the article appears to discuss computers being used for highly structured tasks, which seems the apotheosis of intelligence, whether artificial or real. However, what is occurring is that we (and computers) have become sophisticated at partitioning complex tasks into bite sized chunks. This enables two things. First, by partitioning complex tasks into much smaller sub-tasks, we can teach computers to look for the structured set of rules that govern the sub-tasks. Second, the massive computing infrastructure and almost unlimited storage and processing capabilities means that we can   execute highly complex tasks by something resembling collective intelligence. 
The article quotes Google's Larry Page: “If you told somebody in 1978, ‘You’re going to have this machine, and you’ll be able to type a few words and instantly get all of the world’s knowledge on that topic,’ they would probably consider that to be AI.” Reading this article, I am reminded of Herbert Simon and his theories of information processing. Simon highlighted that information processors (whether humans or computers) are "limited in their processing capacity in comparison with the magnitude of the decision problems that organizations face. The number of alternatives that can be considered, the intricacy of the chains of consequences that can be traced -- all these are severely restricted by the limited capacities of the available processors." However, with the exponential growth of computing capabilities, it follows that someday it would be possible for information processors to deal with the complex amalgamations and interactions of the myriads of smaller tasks that collectively constitute intelligence! 

Herbert A. Simon, "Applying Information Technology to Organization Design," Public Administration Review 33 (1973): 268-78.

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