G. Chaitin on AI

From: Ben Goertzel (ben@goertzel.org)
Date: Fri Mar 01 2002 - 13:53:18 MST

        I was reading the book “Conversations with a Mathematician” by algorithmic
information pioneer Gregory Chaitin today, and I found the following

        “[M]y personal opinion is that AI is not a mathematical problem, it’s an
engineering problem…. To me a human being is just a very complicated piece
of engineering that’s exquisitely well-suited for surviving in this world….
        “[I]t’s very often the case that theoreticians can show that in theory
there’s no way to solve a problem, but software engineers can find a clever
algorithm that usually works, or that usually gives you a good approximation
in a reasonable amount of time. And I think that human intelligence is also
a little bit like that, and that it’s a matter of creeping up on it little
by little, a step at a time, until we can usually do a good job imitating
        “In fact I think that we may be almost halfway there, only we don’t realize
it, and that fifty years from now we’ll be close to a real AI, and then
people will wonder why anyone ever thought that it was difficult to create
an AI. This AI won’t be the result of a theorem, it’ll be a mountain of
work, a giant engineering project that was built piece by piece, little by
little, just like what happens in Nature. As the biologists say, God is a
tinkerer, he cobbles things together, he patches things up, he makes do with
what he has to create new forms of life by experimenting with sloppy little
changes one step at a time….
        “We humans aren’t artistic masterpieces of design, we’re patched together,
bit by bit, and retouched every time that there’s an emergency and the
design has to be changed! We’re strange, awkward creatures, but it all sort
of works! And I think that an AI is also going to be like that….
        “[A] working AI is going to be like some kind of Frankenstein monster that’
s patched together bit by bit until one day we realize that the monster sort
of works, that it’s finally intelligent enough! “

        I think he overstates the case a little bit. There is a kind of elegance
and order to complex adaptive systems with emergent behavior, which is
different from the elegance and order in modern mathematics. But still, I
like his articulation of a point that has always seemed to me a piece of “AI
common sense,” but that yet seems to elude most academic AI theorists.

-- Ben G

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