Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Cultivating artificial intelligence is even more difficult than we think

In the 1960s, with the initial revelations of the scientific experiment known as the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, the public and the media (which at the time consisted of writers and other readers) was captivated.

People talked about long-ago-distant-future possibilities, where a world after civilization had fallen apart would become populated with artificial intelligences living in massive tunnels running over enormous distances — a far less familiar mix of futures than our own present.

As John D. Levenson explains in the video above, this was an exaggeration. But the simulation revealed everything we needed to know about the nature of black holes — something we had assumed all along but hadn’t understood.

As the piece points out, the public’s desire to understand these technologies manifested itself with various attempts to simulate them, including living in distant tunnels. But this experience was ultimately unsuccessful. For one thing, as D. Kimball points out, there wasn’t very much for people to do, and since things stayed pretty lonely in the imagined underground world, it wasn’t interesting, or even possible, to develop other ways of participating.

Our imaginations, and the tools available to us in science and technology, have since changed enough for more than a few of us to take the experiment literally. But two key factors, though, have not:

1. the number of people working on such projects worldwide.

2. the presence of many artificial intelligences.

They’re not mutually exclusive; indeed, humanity has been making more technological progress in terms of personal (consumer) computing for a longer period of time than it has in terms of overall science and technology. So while we’ve been working on virtual reality (VR) and smarter mobile interfaces for over a decade, more than that many years have passed since “The Simpsons” premiered and so much progress has been made in U.S. companies such as Google and Facebook, one could be forgiven for thinking that we’re past the point at which advancements in AI and robotics need to have much meaning for a functioning society.

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