Wisdom from the First OReilly AI Conference
November 28, 2016
Forbes contributor Gil Press nicely correlates and summarizes the insights he found at September’s inaugural O’Reilly AI Conference, held in New York City, in his article, “12 Observations About Artificial Intelligence from the O’Reily AI Conference.” He begins:
At the inaugural O’Reilly AI conference, 66 artificial intelligence practitioners and researchers from 39 organizations presented the current state-of-AI: From chatbots and deep learning to self-driving cars and emotion recognition to automating jobs and obstacles to AI progress to saving lives and new business opportunities. … Here’s a summary of what I heard there, embellished with a few references to recent AI news and commentary.
Here are Press’ 12 observations; check out the article for details on any that spark your interest: “AI is a black box—just like humans”; “AI is difficult”; “The AI driving driverless cars is going to make driving a hobby. Or maybe not”; “AI must consider culture and context”; “AI is not going to take all our jobs”; “AI is not going to kill us”; “AI isn’t magic and deep learning is a useful but limited tool”; “AI is Augmented Intelligence”; “AI changes how we interact with computers—and it needs a dose of empathy”; “AI should graduate from the Turing Test to smarter tests”; “AI according to Winston Churchill”; and “AI continues to be possibly hampered by a futile search for human-level intelligence while locked into a materialist paradigm.”
It is worth contemplating the point Press saved for last—are we even approaching this whole AI thing from the most productive angle? He ponders:
Is it possible that this paradigm—and the driving ambition at its core to play God and develop human-like machines—has led to the infamous ‘AI Winter’? And that continuing to adhere to it and refusing to consider ‘genuinely new ideas,’ out-of-the-dominant-paradigm ideas, will lead to yet another AI Winter? Maybe, just maybe, our minds are not computers and computers do not resemble our brains? And maybe, just maybe, if we finally abandon the futile pursuit of replicating ‘human-level AI’ in computers, we will find many additional–albeit ‘narrow’–applications of computers to enrich and improve our lives?
I think Press is on to something. Perhaps we should admit that anything approaching Rosie the Robot is still decades away (according to conference presenter Oren Etzioni). At this early date, we may do well to accept and applaud specialized AIs that do one thing very well but are completely ignorant of everything else. After all, our Roombas are unlikely to attempt conquering the world.