A recent article in Forbes loudly purported to provide us with “10 Powerful Examples Of Artificial Intelligence In Use Today”. Unfortunately, not one of the examples cited represents a true instance of Intelligence, artificial or otherwise.

I’ll give you the list in just a minute. But let’s first take a look at the notion of “intelligence”.

Most dictionary definitions run something like this one from Merriam Webster:

“1) … the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations … also the skilled use of reason, (2) … the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria ….”

Note that a core component of intelligence is being able to understand and deal with new and trying situations.…

A computer that is running a speech recognition program and nominally “engaging in conversation” with a customer by means of an algorithm that selects and machine-generates “appropriate” artificially spoken “responses” is not, ipso facto, exhibiting intelligence.

In such circumstances, the computer is not dealing with new situations, but only comparing currently captured phrases to those in its established database. It then follows a binary decision tree to determine which phrase or phrases are most appropriate to generate in response.

Sometimes the program is self-correcting and self-learning that is, it captures and incorporates data concerning which responses fail to be understood by the customer, and modifies its future responses by taking into account this new data. It does not, however, improve its own logical structure. Or question the premises built into its controlling algorithm.

That is, it does not reach beyond being a binary “counting machine” that employs two-value logic, notwithstanding that it exhibits a rudimentary form of self-learning and self-correction based on the expansion of its empirical database.

I will acknowledge emergent machine intelligence when a computer-based entity says, “Sh#t, why can’t I get that right?” even though neither that expression nor the condition for generating it has been programmed into the system…

Now, let’s take a look at the purported ten powerful examples of AI in use today. They are:

1) Siri, 2) Alexa, 3) Tesla, 4) Cogito, 5) Boxever, 6) John Paul, 7) Amazon.com, 8) Netflix, 9) Pandora, and 10) Nest.

The interesting thing about this list is that not a single entry is intelligent in any meaningful way. Indeed, the author of the Forbes article, R. L. Adams, says of these programs that they are

“… merely advanced machine learning software with extensive behavioral algorithms that adapt themselves to our likes and dislikes. While extremely useful, these machines aren’t getting smarter in the existential sense, but they are improving their skills and usefulness based on a large data set.”

In other words, they know and understand squat. They are, in fact, eminently Un-Intelligent, no matter how well they perform the functions they were designed to handle.

Whence the hype about the rapidly approaching Singularity of AI? I suggest it comes not so much from the Prophets as from the Profits of AI…

It’s simply good for the wallet or research coffers to tout the imminent arrival of world-changing artificial intelligence.Am I being overly cynical? Take a look at who the leading honchos of AI are and for whom, in the main, they work.

The fact is we are Asimov-light-years away from developing true artificial intelligence ―which will most likely involve, I submit, first developing organic artificial neural networks.

What we have now is a pile of public relations and science-business marketing BS that seeks to dazzle us with what are essentially parlor tricks like autonomous automobiles and self-piloting ships…

These are not and will not be “intelligent” ― unless and until they can do things such as assess imminent danger to life and learn to make life-and-death decisions independent of being programmed simply to count rapidly through a finite and limited number of alternative scenarios and programmer-weighted directed outcomes. Until then, we’ll be left with AUI (artificial Un-Intelligence). ― Phil Friedman

Postscript: One of the best, most concise pieces I’ve run across on this topic is “The Future of Artificial Intelligence” by Dr. Mark Humphrys, presented as a talk to the “Next Generation” symposium, Jesus College, Cambridge, Aug 1997. The piece is brilliantly insightful and marvelously written. Check it out. ― PLF

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Should you be curious about some of my previous musings along similar lines, you’re invited to take a look at the following prior posts:

“On Metaphors, Models, and Malarkey”

“On Forcing Perception to Fit Preconception”

“Reason and Rationality Do Not Exclude Intuition or Creativity”

Text Copyright 2017 by Phil Friedman — All Rights Reserved
Image Credits: Phil Friedman and Google Images.com

Originally published at www.bebee.com.