"Hard things are mind-numbingly easy for a computer, while easy things are insanely hard for it."

The Artificial Intelligence Revolution


Wed, Feb 4th, 2015 21:07 by capnasty NEWS

On Wait But Why, Tim Urban looks at the development of artificial intelligence. We're not there yet, right now we can just build simple systems that can beat us at chess or handle our car's braking system. But if our technological prowess continues down the same path, we're very very close. The article is remarkably easy to read and filled with great explanations of the roadblocks researchers are facing. Be sure to read part two.

Nothing will make you appreciate human intelligence like learning about how unbelievably challenging it is to try to create a computer as smart as we are. Building skyscrapers, putting humans in space, figuring out the details of how the Big Bang went down—all far easier than understanding our own brain or how to make something as cool as it. As of now, the human brain is the most complex object in the known universe.

What’s interesting is that the hard parts of trying to build an AGI (a computer as smart as humans in general, not just at one narrow specialty) are not intuitively what you’d think they are. Build a computer that can multiply two ten-digit numbers in a split second—incredibly easy. Build one that can look at a dog and answer whether it’s a dog or a cat—spectacularly difficult. Make AI that can beat any human in chess? Done. Make one that can read a paragraph from a six-year-old’s picture book and not just recognize the words but understand the meaning of them? Google is currently spending billions of dollars trying to do it. Hard things—like calculus, financial market strategy, and language translation—are mind-numbingly easy for a computer, while easy things—like vision, motion, movement, and perception—are insanely hard for it. Or, as computer scientist Donald Knuth puts it, “AI has by now succeeded in doing essentially everything that requires ‘thinking’ but has failed to do most of what people and animals do ‘without thinking.'”7



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