Re: G. Chaitin on AI

From: Simon McClenahan (
Date: Fri Mar 01 2002 - 23:24:35 MST

From: "Ben Goertzel" <>

> I was reading the book "Conversations with a Mathematician" by algorithmic
> information pioneer Gregory Chaitin today, and I found the following
> passage:

> "[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
> of engineering that's exquisitely well-suited for surviving in this

I have always thought this. But surely anyone who agrees with the "mind is a
machine" theory, like I assume all of us on this list are, could infer that
"reverse engineering" the mind inside a modern computer substrate is indeed
an engineering problem.

> "[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
> algorithm that usually works, or that usually gives you a good
> in a reasonable amount of time.

Maybe I'm thinking on a different plane here, but to me the clever
algorithms are indeed a mathematical problem. For example, computer graphics
algorithms are used to render a potentially real 3D model onto a 2D screen.
All of these algorithms use shortcuts to reduce computation time, i.e.
instead of modelling every single photon's behaviour in a scene, ther are
shading algorithms that approximate what it looks like. As the raw computing
power gets faster, the computer graphics industry can use more complex
algorithms for better mathematical approximations. But the raw computing
power may come in the form of faster CPU's, parallel processing in clusters,
etc. That is both a software and hardware engineering problem.

> "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!

Sounds like the eXtreme Programming methodology! :-) Or more likely the
timeless classic Waterfall method of software development.

> 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
> s patched together bit by bit until one day we realize that the monster
> of works, that it's finally intelligent enough! "

That's one way it could work. Another way is with a very formalized
methodology that begins with design and modelling first. It's a Project
Management / Engineering problem. Thank goodness we have organizations such
as the Singularity Institute to monitor and encourage proven and proper
project management methodologies so as to reach The Goal with efficiency,
minimum faults, and all those other nice things that we all want from
software but only the military and NASA seem to adhere to the strictest
standards, even if they did have to define those standards for their own

So I still believe that a general AI could come from a cluster of 286's. All
you need is enough of them working in parallel, not necessarily running
exactly the same software, or individual OS. Of course, the more powerful
computers help speed things up a bit, but it doesn't make the 286's useless.


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