[sl4] Wolfram Alpha: Useful For AI Research?

From: Thomas Buckner (tcbevolver@yahoo.com)
Date: Fri May 01 2009 - 20:37:12 MDT

Stephen Wolfram, the creator of Mathematica software and author of the book A New Kind Of Science, is rolling out a formal search engine called Wolfram Alpha. In addition to displaying pages with the information you seek, it can calculate answers to questions. Seems like Google plus Mathematica, with an expert system knitting the two.

Quote from Techcrunch: "The vision seems to be to create a system wich can do for formal knowledge (all the formally definable systems, heuristics, algorithms, rules, methods, theorems, and facts in the world) what search engines have done for informal knowledge (all the text and documents in various forms of media)."
Query: could not a system that is described like that be used, by anyone on the Web, in GAI research?

Rudy Rucker talked to Wolfram: "Kicking off our conversation, Stephen remarks that, “Wolfram|Alpha isn’t really a search engine, because we compute the answers, and we discover new truths. If anything, you might call it a platonic search engine, unearthing eternal truths that may never have been written down before.” from http://www.hplusmagazine.com/articles/ai/wolframalpha-searching-truth

You might, when Wolfram Alpha is fully underway and gaining a reputation for giving good answers, trust it to run complex sims for you, as an outboard brain of sorts, figuring out thorny questions of how to define Friendliness. Depending on how smart it is in helping you make design strategies. Wolfram is a notorious egotist in the Edison mold, but like Edison he can make some big things happen.
Query? Could a GAI be hatched in sim in such an environment?
If GAI is possible, then probably yes, if you were clever enough to code it in there.
But could it be effectively sandboxed using software methods alone, in a simulation spread across the internet? Hmmmmmm.

All moot, of course, if Wolfram Alpha doesn't live up to the buildup. But to me, right now, it seems very plausible.

Tom Buckner

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