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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Limit of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008 Posted by Ismail Habib , 17 comments
I always crazy about sci-fi futuristic movies. Humanoid robots, machines vs men (with the help of Arnold) wars, or robots taking over the whole earth and keeping men as batteries. Simply love them. Most of those movies introduced the existence of highly-intelligent machines. Sometimes they are shown as having a human-level intelligent, in other case they are even better. Well now the question is: is it even possible? To what extent the development of so called Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be?

Back in 1960 something, experts predicted that in 20 years machine would be capable of doing everything human capable of, which is often called as "Strong AI". With respect for those AI experts, we are now in 2008 and it's not even close. Strong AI is proven to be much more difficult and complicated to achieve. This misprediction has caused AI experts being addressed as a “liar”, and consequently being forced to changes the direction of AI research from “Strong AI” into a more short-term, specific domain of problem, which is called "Applied AI" or "Weak AI". However, the dream of “human level AI” will never cease, and debate about it is always interesting to follow.

There has been a great discussion about whether human level AI is likely to be achieved by a mere symbol processing like what most weak AI commonly use. By applying a huge collection of formal rules and in addition, scaling up processing capabilities and storage capacity, and there we are. This opinion is greatly opposed by some experts. As current system lacks of something that is called “understanding”, “minds”, “conscience”, or other things which is related to mental states. The argument based on the idea that there is something more than just behavior to call a machine have an intelligent comparable to human. For example, let say that a machine capable of translating English to French. Even if the machine did it correctly, it is arguably incorrect to say that the machine actually “understand” English (or French).

But who need minds anyway? Intelligent is all about behavior, and it alone is enough. To see it from a different perspective, I (and my ignorance) have a trouble to imagine what “minds” and “conscience” are. Are they just some terms used to express something unexplainable? Or perhaps it just simply does not exists from the very beginning?

I have a nice discussion with one of my friend about this matter, and his view is somewhat different from what I expect, but nevertheless very fascinating to be followed. His first thought is that, even if human are capable of doing it, creating a machine with human level intelligent is unnecessary. Life is difficult enough, why would you like to increase the competition among human by introducing some humanoids? Other thing he expressed is that there is no way human will be able to do such a thing. An inventor would not be able to invent anything equal or beyond itself, as human is not God.

p.s: I am not an AI researcher nor expert in this field. Just someone who has an interest in it.


  1. Few remarks:
    Firs, Intelligence goes hand in hand with learning capabilities. A baby can't 'understand' french or english unless someone tought him the language.

    Second, I think that if we are be able to understand how the brain really works on the micro and macro levels, we will have no problem to create a computer with human brain power.
    Actually, there is already a project like this up and running. check Blue Gene on wiki

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