How to Fight the Bloatware of AI
By Peter Sweeney
Mar 30 2017
Human intelligence is a misleading vision for AI. The intelligence we need to create in machines isn’t a natural phenomenon, it’s a human invention. The goal isn’t artificial human intelligence, it’s automated scientific discovery.
The bloatware of intelligence
What is intelligence? It’s an inherently controversial and bloated question. Here are 70 definitions of intelligence, and this list barely scratches the surface. But whatever your working definition, the human variety of general intelligence is indisputably our best example.
As such, conventional wisdom holds that the only reasonable archetype for artificial intelligence is human. But is it true?
Experts would dispute this popular notion. Norvig and Stuart highlight that thinking and acting humanly is but one slice of AI; rationality is a peer level consideration. Clearly, we don’t need to reverse engineer every human instinct and product of our natural intelligence. As Yuval Noah Harari explains, “AI is nowhere near human-like existence, but 99 percent of human qualities and abilities are simply redundant for the performance of most modern jobs.”
“99 percent of human qualities and abilities are simply redundant” — Yuval Noah Harari
So if human intelligence is bloatware, why is it such an enduring vision for AI? One explanation is its stickiness. Abstractions like rational agents can’t compete with the concreteness of artificial humans to inspire and motivate our efforts. Movies about androids are blockbusters; it’s hard to even recall movies about rationality.
Another explanation might simply be our tendency to imagine new technologies in the frame of old. Cars weren’t cars at first, they were horseless carriages. Telephones were speech-enabled telegraphs. In this context, the idea of AI as artificial human intelligence is certainly forgivable.
Forgivable, but misguided. Human intelligence is bloatware, and bloatware can kill (or at least seriously delay) even the most determined projects.
Knowledge creating machines
So if human intelligence is misleading, then what is our guide? The answer is illuminated, not with the question of what is artificial intelligence, but rather why?
“What society most needs is automated scientific discovery.” — Gary Marcus
In essence, we need AI to deliver inventive solutions to our problems, the means for creating new knowledge. Moreover, we want machines that create good knowledge, effective explanations of how to change the world.
Before you retreat to the comfort of human intelligence, recall that humans are notoriously flawed knowledge creators. Anatomically modern humans have existed for 200,000 years. Yet it’s only within the past few centuries, beginning with the scientific revolution, that humans began making consistent, predictable progress through the creation of good knowledge. Earlier humans produced a wealth of bad knowledge, most of it long forgotten.