back to article It's all fun and games until someone loses an AI

Many speeches at AI conferences begin with AlphaGo, the Google-built AI that beat Lee Sedol - one of the highest ranked Go players in the world – to illustrate how far AI has progressed. Most speakers briefly talk about how the computer programme works, and then go on to praise the intelligence of the machine. Oren Etzioni, …

  1. Alan Bourke

    YES. THIS.

    So much lazy use of the term 'AI' being flung around in the tech and wider press at the minute. As if we had anything even approaching an intelligence, as opposed to a very expert system, pattern recognition etc. Are we really any close ro an actual AI than we were in the 1970s or 1980s?

  2. Stoneshop Silver badge

    Allen Institute of AI

    I keep reading "Alien Institute of AI"

  3. You aint sin me, roit Silver badge

    "Those of us that have been working in AI for more than 30 years"

    "Don't like the hype because it shows how little we have actually accomplished in 30 years."


  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AI everywhere, oh my

    Compute systems can only make "decisions" based on what humans have programmed them to make. There is no magic and there is no spontaneous, creative intelligence in compute systems - anywhere. There are no self-learning machines that learn completely on their own with no human intervention, even though the press says there are from time to time. As mentioned, matching predetermined patterns is not AI, it is matching predetermined patterns and generally involves the actual counting of something to get a number to compare to another, pre-established number. Sometimes it takes really smart people to figure it out and set it up, but THAT creative intelligence does not get infused into the system in any way. Deeper thought on the subject brings one to the eventual possibility that humans may not be the spontaneous thinking and acting things we think we are and that we are programmed to respond to certain stimuli and have very little say in the range of responses. Our observation, pattern matching and responses are limited by what is encoded in our DNA. It could be that WE are artificial intelligence and simply aren't aware enough to know it.

    1. jaime

      Re: AI everywhere, oh my

      You may have a point since there are already studies showing we may not have as much free will as we think we do!

    2. LionelB

      Re: AI everywhere, oh my

      So-called deep-learning systems (such as AlphaGo) most certainly don't have explicit decision-making algorithms programmed into them: it is more "meta" than that. Rather, they have an explicitly programmed learning algorithm. This algorithm is trained on vast data sets exemplifying the target "intelligent behaviour" that the system is targeted to achieve. So AlphaGo, for instance, would have been trained on large archives of (mostly human*) Go games. Training (generally a very lengthy process) configures the internal information-processing logic of the system in such a manner as to facilitate generalisation, so that it can respond well in situations it has not encountered during training, but also avoiding over-generalisation, which might lead to sub-optimal responses. During execution, the trained system then makes "decisions" which in general are utterly opaque to humans, including the designer of the learning algorithm.

      To achieve any kind of performance for hard real-world tasks (and playing Go well, for example, is hard!), huge data-processing resources are required. While the theoretical basis for design of such learning algorithms goes back at least to the 80's, it is only much more recently that sufficient data processing capacity to exploit their potential has become readily available - hence the recent deep-learning buzz/hype.

      So no, it is not magic, but it is rather clever, and based on sound maths. Human expertise typically enters the picture in artful (and often biologically-inspired) design of domain-specific problem encoding, such as the convolutional networks which have proved highly effective in visual processing, and in tailoring the architecture of the learning system to the problem at hand.

      Clearly, such learning systems are, at least for now, limited to highly specific problem domains (playing an - albeit difficult - game, maybe even controlling an autonomous vehicle). By comparison, us bio-machines have the benefit of several billions of years of evolutionary history to configure our learning systems (and indeed our learning-to-learn systems), as well as lifetimes of supervised and unsupervised training. So no, I certainly wouldn't expect human-like intelligence to emerge from the deep-learning world anytime soon.

      In particular, I suspect that this won't come about as long as AI systems are disembodied "brains-in-a-jar" with a limited interface to the outside world. After all, natural intelligence evolved in bodies embedded in, and interacting with, the physical - and social - world. When (if?) AI achieves the level of sophistication and versatility of, let's say, a housefly I will be truly impressed - but I'm not holding my breath.

      Nevertheless, I think it's unfair and short-sighted to sneer at the achievements of AI to date. My suspicion is that current technologies such as deep-learning may turn out to be crucial building-blocks in more sophisticated AI technologies of the future.

      * I think I read somewhere (but may be wrong) that AlphaGo also trains on game data it generates itself...

  5. JeffyPoooh

    "A.I. is hard. Especially in the real world."

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I remember posting pretty much this in the Reg's AlphaGo article

    And being voted down by a lot of ninnies who don't get the difference between being programmed to play chess or play Go or play Jeopardy, and being programmed to LEARN, and being able to learn to do all those things plus many more. Because AlphaGo was programmed to "learn" from past games, apparently that meant it was an AI. :P

    We are decades away from a true AI.

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