AI and alchemy: The first step is admitting you have a problem

From: Eliezer Yudkowsky (
Date: Sun Aug 22 2004 - 03:57:05 MDT

Someone else to whom the AI/alchemy analogy has occurred, albeit from
something of a different perspective:,13228,1280812,00.html

"I admit it, I'm an alchemist"
by Steve Grand:

> As a roboticist and AI researcher I'm often asked how close we are to
> achieving the level of artificial intelligence portrayed in The Stepford
> Wives, I, Robot, or some other film. But what can I say? It doesn't work
> like that.
> The invention of the wheel wasn't presaged by months of headlines saying
> "Axle breakthrough imminent" or "Round is better than square, say
> scientists". One moment the idea hadn't occurred to anyone and the next
> it had. AI is much the same, except the right idea still eludes us. AI
> is to natural intelligence what alchemy was to chemistry: we're
> valiantly mixing things together to see what happens, but we lack the
> right conceptual framework; we have no periodic table. If it hadn't been
> for alchemists there would be no chemistry, so I mean no slur. It's
> simply that the problem is incredibly difficult.

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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