Thursday, December 14, 2017

AI Learning

The June issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN included an article on "Making AI More Human," which discussed improving the way artificial intelligences learn. Can they be designed to learn more like human children? Computers excel at tasks hard or impossible for human beings, such as high-speed calculations and handling massive amounts of data; yet they can't do many things easy for a human five-year-old. Developing human brains receive information about the environment from the "stream of photons and air vibrations" that reaches our eyes and ears. Computers get the equivalent information through digital files that represent the world we experience. Both "top-down" and "bottom-up" approaches to learning have advantages. In top-down learning, the mind reasons from high-level, general, abstract hypotheses about the environment to specific instances and facts. Bottom-down learning involves gathering and analyzing huge accumulations of data to search for patterns. This Wikipedia page further explains the differences:

Top-Down and Bottom-Up Design

And here's a brief overview, which suggests, "A bottom-up approch would be the most ideal way to create human-like intelligence as we ourselves are part of a bottom-up design process (which occured in the form of evolution)."

Top-Down Vs. Bottom-Up

I'm intrigued by this page's mention of "child machines with a willingness to learn." According to the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN article, real children apply the best features of both top-down and bottom-up processes and even venture beyond them to make original inferences.

How similarly to a human child would an artificial intelligence need to grow and learn before we'd have to accept it as, in some sense, human? Would it have to possess free will in order to qualify as a fellow sentient being? That question would require defining free will—a feature that classic behaviorists and some other determinists don't even think WE have.

The SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN article concludes, "We should recall the still mysterious powers of the human mind when we hear claims that AI is an existential threat."

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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