Yesterday saw Reading University here in the UK playing host to the annual Loebner Artificial Intelligence Prize event – a contest based around Alan Turing’s famous benchmark for artificial intelligence that can really think, namely whether or not it can successfully imitate human communications.
The notion of an instant Singularity rests upon the misguided idea that intelligence alone can solve problems.
As an essay called Why Work Toward the Singularity lets slip: “Even humans could probably solve those difficulties given hundreds of years to think about it.”
In this approach one only has to think about problems smartly enough to solve them. I call that “thinkism.”
No amount of thinkism will discover how the cell ages, or how telomeres fall off. No intelligence, no matter how super duper, can figure out how human body works simply by reading all the known scientific literature in the world and then contemplating it.
The official Google blog isn’t always the most exciting of reads, but every now and again they post up something worth a read. Today saw the first of ten articles from the top boffins at the Googleplex to celebrate the company’s tenth anniversary; it’s about the future of cloud computing, and it hints at a fairly science fictional end-point:
Traditionally, systems that solve complicated problems and queries have been called “intelligent”, but compared to earlier approaches in the field of ‘artificial intelligence’, the path that we foresee has important new elements. First of all, this system will operate on an enormous scale with an unprecedented computational power of millions of computers. It will be used by billions of people and learn from an aggregate of potentially trillions of meaningful interactions per day. It will be engineered iteratively, based on a feedback loop of quick changes, evaluation, and adjustments.
Underneath that corporate gloss is the enthusiasm of researchers who believe they’re working toward a useful form of artificial intelligence. This isn’t news, of course – Larry Page has been quite open about that particular long-term goal – but it’s the assured confidence that Google has which never ceases to astonish. From the introduction to the article:
As computer scientist Alan Kay has famously observed, the best way to predict the future is to invent it, so we will be doing our best to make good on our experts’ words every day.
One can’t help but be reminded of the Genius Inventor archetypes of pulp science fiction… but in this case that blue-sky vision is backed up by the bankroll of one of the most powerful organisations on the planet. [image by dannysullivan]
So, is it hubris, hype or hope… or a mixture of all three? Should we fear the Big G, or look to it to usher in something like the Singularity and save us from ourselves? Or is AI just a pipe dream for big-budget geeks?
This month David McGillveray returns to Futurismic with a new story, “The Plastic Elf of Extrusion Valley”. Strange things are afoot in the computer-controlled fabrication farms of Germany’s Altes Land…
The Plastic Elf of Extrusion Valley
by David McGillveray
A cold October breeze came down from the North Sea, but no leaves rustled in the plastic forest. Instead, an eerie, fluting music played in the valley as the wind moved over the tall cylinders like a kid blowing over bottle tops.
My midnight walks were one of the few pleasures I took from working in the extrusion fields. Despite the approaching winter, the soil was warm against the soles of my feet. I imagined with equal measures of fascination and disquiet the seething activity below, the billions of nanoconstructors setting molecule upon molecule, endlessly building. These fields never lay fallow: four harvests per year, as kilometres of commercial piping grew fresh from the magic soil, regular as quarterly budgets. Continue reading NEW FICTION: THE PLASTIC ELF OF EXTRUSION VALLEY by David McGillveray→
The robot has a certain ‘AT-AT’ quality, doesn’t it? It’s amazing how creepily lifelike its movements are. If you had to trek across the desert or Antarctic, would you like a ‘Big Dog’ around carrying your gear?