X-Message-Number: 25538
Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2005 09:52:44 EST
Subject: AI again

Peter Merel argues that the problem of general-purpose artificial  

intelligence is intractable so far, with nothing much further in sight. He  

that the problems of algorithmic approaches do not speak to the  possibility of
other approaches or hybrid approaches, but perhaps he gives less  than due 
recognition to the implications of biology. If a tiny insect or mite  can 

negotiate terrain, how hard can the problem be, in the longer view? If it  has 
done, it can be done--the Precedent Principle.
Richard B.R. argues that both humans and general-purpose machines will  
always be inferior to special-purpose machines. He also tries to tie this to  
evolution--that we evolved to reproduce, and everything else is a side  effect.
Looking at that last, it is irrelevant. Humans of 50,000 years ago were  
genetically nearly identical to modern humans, and capable of designing and  
flying space ships, even though they had not yet invented agriculture. We can  

sometimes get clues to what we are by looking at origins, but what counts in any
case is what we are, not how we became what we are.
Richard also dismissed my point about idiot-savants by emphasizing the  
"idiot" part. That's not relevant. There are also people with superior math  

abilities who are otherwise normal, and little if any reason to think  that 
status necessarily sacrifices other normal abilities, even though  that 
sometimes happens to be the case.
My main point was that "small" biological differences can result in  enormous 
practical differences or consequences. Again, raising the mean IQ just  a 
little can raise the number of geniuses by a lot, and they in turn can move  
civilizations. In a vaguely similar way, a "small" advance in AI  architecture 
could result in major practical improvements.
RBR also said that Einstein's life work could be encapsulated in a few  
lines, and said:
>This is great for the 
>human species but is pathetic in absolute  terms.
Well, everybody's entitled to a few blunders, but the first and second  parts 
of the above sentence seem a bit inconsistent--and surely the first  part is 
the more important, even if the second part has any real meaning.
Robert Ettinger

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