Wednesday, August 10, 2011

On Artificial Intelligence

This morning, in the opening session of AAAI'11  there has been a panel of people who participated in the first instance of AAAI in 1980 who compared AI research then and today.    Hearing them I could not have seeing in my mind the picture of  the late Professor Yeshahayu Leibowitz, maybe the smartest Israeli of our time, who was known in his blunt controversial statements and opinions (e.g. he has been religious, but claimed that religion is just a set of axioms he taken upon himself and had nothing to do with reality).  The reason I remember him is because in the height of the Artificial Intelligence boom he wrote an article in one of the daily newspapers entitled  "Artificial Intelligence - an oxymoron", which claimed that intelligence is inherently a property of a living entity and cannot be artificial.   Since then I always addressed the term AI with a grain of salt.    AI research is very diversified, and there are sessions in this conference about: multi-agent systems, description logics, social networks, machine learning, natural language processing, search, knowledge representation and reasoning, planning, search engines, reasoning under uncertainty and more.    It also seems that like academic research, each paper concentrates on a narrow aspect of one of these areas,  it will probably take integration of all of these and more to create a real artificial intelligence that will break the Turing test.  It does not seem that this is a focus of current AI research, it actually broke away from the attempt to create artificial intelligence to solve specific goals.   Maybe the AI community needs a grand challenge.     The first keynote address was of Dave Ferrucci, the principal investigator of the Watson project who won the Jeopardy! game earlier this year.   It is probably the strength of industrial research that unlike academic research can gather multi-disciplinary people and focus them on a single goals.  Dave told us that in order not to stay focused on the goal, the researchers did not publish a single paper in four years, and started to publish all the scientific results only after the win - this is against the academic DNA, where people are measured on quantity of publications.     Tomorrow another day of AAAI,  starting the l-o-n-g trip home on Thursday.  I also visited the IBM Almaden Research Center yesterday, but will write about Alnaden in a separate post.

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