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Saturday, October 29, 2022

AI and Intelligence

 Musing on future directions. 

AI's true goal may no longer be intelligence

Some scholars of AI warn that the present technologies may never add up to "true" intelligence or "human" intelligence. But much of the world may not care about that.

Written by Tiernan Ray, Contributing Writer on Oct. 28, 2022

Illustration of a person with their face lifted out as a mask to show the computer inside, and wearing a nametag saying Hi, I'm AI

AI has been rapidly finding industrial applications, such as the use of large language models to automate enterprise IT. Those applications may make the question of actual intelligence moot.

The British mathematician Alan Turing wrote in 1950, "I propose to consider the question, 'Can machines think?'" His inquiry framed the discussion for decades of artificial intelligence research.

For a couple of generations of scientists contemplating AI, the question of whether "true" or "human" intelligence could be achieved was always an important part of the work. 

AI may now be at a turning point where such questions matter less and less to most people. 

The emergence of something called industrial AI in recent years may signal an end to such lofty preoccupations. AI has more capability today than at any time in the 66 years since the term AI was first coined by computer scientist John McCarthy. As a result, the industrialization of AI is shifting the focus from intelligence to achievement.

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Those achievements are remarkable. They include a system that can predict protein folding, AlphaFold, from Google's DeepMind unit, and the text generation program GPT-3 from startup OpenAI. Both of those programs hold tremendous industrial promise irrespective of whether anyone calls them intelligent. 

Among other things, AlphaFold holds the promise of designing novel forms of proteins, a prospect that has electrified the biology community. GPT-3 is rapidly finding its place as a system that can automate business tasks, such as responding to employee or customer queries in writing without human intervention.

That practical success, driven by a prolific semiconductor field, led by chipmaker Nvidia, seems like it might outstrip the old preoccupation with intelligence. 

In no corner of industrial AI does anyone seem to care whether such programs are going to achieve intelligence. It is as if, in the face of practical achievements that demonstrate obvious worth, the old question, "But is it intelligent?" ceases to matter.  ... ' 

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