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Sunday, June 24, 2018

GIGAOM Conversation with David Barrett

Voices in AI – Episode 48: A Conversation with David Barrett

Byron Reese: This is Voices in AI brought to you by GigaOm, I’m Byron Reese. Today our guest is

David Barrett. He is both the founder and the CEO of Expensify. He started programming when he was 6 and has been at it as his primary activity ever since, except for a brief hiatus for world travel, some technical writing, a little project management, and then founding and running Expensify. Welcome to the show, David.

David Barrett: It’s great of you to have me, thank you.

Let’s talk about artificial intelligence, what do you think it is? How would you define it?

I guess I would say that AI is best defined as a feature, not as a technology. It’s the experience that the user has and sort of the experience of viewing of something as being intelligent, and how it’s actually implemented behind the scenes. I think people spend way too much time and energy on [it], and forget sort of about the experience that the person actually has with it.

So you’re saying, if you interact with something and it seems intelligent, then that’s artificial intelligence?

That’s sort of the whole basis of the Turing test, I think, is not based upon what is behind the curtain but rather what’s experienced in front of the curtain.

Okay, let me ask a different question then– and I’m not going to drag you through a bunch of semantics. But what is intelligence, then? I’ll start out by saying it’s a term that does not have a consensus definition, so it’s kind of like you can’t be wrong, no matter what you say.

Yeah, I think the best one I’ve heard is something that sort of surprises you. If it’s something that behaves entirely predictable, it doesn’t seem terribly interesting. Something that is also random isn’t particularly surprising, I guess, but something that actually intrigues you. And basically it’s like “Wow, I didn’t anticipate that it would correctly do this thing better than I thought.” So, basically, intelligence– the key to it is surprise. .... 

So in what sense, then–final definitional question–do you think artificial intelligence is artificial? Is it artificial because we made it? Or is it artificial because it’s just pretending to be intelligent but it isn’t really? ... 

Yeah, I think that’s just sort of a definition–people use “artificial” because they believe that humans are special. And basically anything–intelligence is the sole domain of humanity and thus anything that is intelligent that’s not human must be artificial. I think that’s just sort of semantics around the egoism of humanity. ....    " 

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