Nice input from Bob K. from a meeting he went to on AI.
The observation that the chip TrueNorth is not profitable is not surprising. Per an earlier blog update: “Per Cade Metz of Wired, 8/17/2015, IBM for the first time is sharing their TrueNorth computers with the outside world. They are running a three-week class for academics and government researchers at an IBM R&D lab. The students are exploring the chip’s architecture and beginning to build software. At the end of the training session, the students, which represent 30 institutions on five continents, will each take their own TrueNorth computer back to their labs.”
That means that IBM only started making this chip available a few months ago. Given that it requires a totally new approach in programming, of course it did not just take off like an iPad and become quickly profitable. But IBM did not invest billions in the TrueNorth development just for the fun of it. They must see a potentially huge market, and they are not looking at 50 – 100 years from now. The professor said “the exponential increases in the speed of computers could lead to strong AI.” But the TrueNorth chip changes the whole game because it is not only fast, but it works more like the human brain than traditional computers.
Way back in the early part of my engineering career, I was given a project that several other engineers had already failed on. They tried to write a very complicated formula needed to program a numerically controlled machine to make a complex cam shape. I took a different approach. I basically had the computer “guess” at values then see how close their guesses were to the desired cam shape. I programmed the computer to keep guessing until the value was within 0.0001” of the desired shape, then move 0.0001” further along the shape and start guessing again. The program instructed the next guess to always be in the direction of the desired shape. When the program was done, it had many thousands of points that made up the desired shape. I had no knowledge of all the thousands of interim steps needed to do this. But way back then, on a computer far slower than any current computer, I saw the power of computers to do what we could not. Was this thinking? No, at least in not what we define as thinking. But the computer was able to use a different approach than what we do and get a result that several bright engineers were not capable of.
Bob K. says that the professor stated: “Strong AI will not likely have intelligence in exactly the same way that humans have intelligence. It is unlikely that we will even understand how the human brain works until 50-100 years from now [if then] she said.” What do we care if the computer has the same kind of intelligence that we have? It seems foolish to assume that evolution developed the optimum means of “thinking” by trial and error. And it is not important that we know in great detail how the human mind works.
One of the things I learned in writing my book Artificial Intelligence Newborn is that we will not be able to guess exactly in what form AI will develop. Will it be a breakthrough or an outgrowth of small steps like autonomous cars? My purpose of doing this blog is that if you don’t believe that thinking is some magic force limited to humans; that some equivalent thinking ability will eventually grow from the efforts being put into powerful computers by very innovative programmers.
If you want to have some fun, outline your own book on AI and see where it takes you! Writing my book forced me to consider different options every step of the way. And remember when you are doing this, that even though the computer may be powerful and fast, it is limited to the inputs that people have given it, and what it can derive from the net. It has no god-like knowledge, and even has been subjected to the prejudices of man. It will make mistakes and demonstrate bad judgment at times, just like the smartest of people. Or eventually, smarter than the smartest of people!