Barney Pell: Pathways to artificial intelligence

Barney Pell: Pathways to artificial intelligence

Summary: Barney Pell has a passion for artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP). His latest foray into those related fields is Powerset, a search engine that he hopes will challenge Google.

TOPICS: Hardware

Barney Pell has a passion for artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP). His latest foray into those related fields is Powerset, a search engine that he hopes will challenge Google. He will be speaking, along with other experts in the AI field, at the Singularity Summit 2007, held at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco September 8-9.

In this podcast interview, I talked with Pell about his views on AI and how the development of machines smarter than humans will play out in coming decades. We also discussed the underpinnings of Powerset as an example of technology and collective human intelligence applied to making a smarter search engine, and how natural language understanding is at an inflection point, moving out of the labs and into the world.

Pell said that AI entities will get smarter but also humans, via intelligence augmentation, will gain new capabilities. He suggested that two approaches will meet in the middle--bottom-up complete brain simulations, which develop like human children, and top-down engineered systems.

He provided a framework for thinking about how AIs might evolve, and thoughts about the risks in developing such advanced technologies. "We are going to have to just bite the bullet--because this is going to happen. I don't think these will be technologies you will be able to control. I do think there is strong value in looking at what are architectural aspects that may or may not be the same as people that can really dispose these systems to be the kinds of systems you want to build and to look at training and development processes that socialize these systems in the right way," Pell said.

The Singularity Summit 2007 will address the risks and benefits of advanced AI and how we should prepare for Singularity, the creation of smarter-than-human intelligence, driven by technology advances such as AI, direct brain-computer interfaces, biological augmentation of the brain, genetic engineering and ultra-high resolution scans of the brain followed by computer emulation.

See also: Steve Omohundro: Building self-aware AI systems

Steve Jurvetson: AI, nanotech and the future of the human species

Can ‘friendly’ AI save humans from irrelevance or extinction?

Topic: Hardware

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  • It's interesting

    20 years ago AI researchers were saying that we will have machines that are more intelligent than human beings within 20 years.

    They are still saying the same thing, so at least they are consistent.
    • It depends on how you look at

      I propose that current computers are more intelligent than most human beings....the programmers being the few exceptions. But that's not really what they were hitting at, I suppose...
  • Are we positive that this is a good idea?

    I'm all for progress and such. And it would be totally cool to have an AI machine that didn't have to be ran by a human, but...a machine that is more intellegent than humans, that one of the leaders in the field proclaim will be outside of our control...isn't that a resoundingly bad idea? Kind of like a nuclear reaction - we can start it, but then we have no control, even if it goes horribly wrong? Some would say "There will be a kill switch" and I'm sure that someone else has thought this too, but here goes anyway - if the machine is smarter than those who programmed it, then how could we rely on any of the safety constraints that were initially programmed? Could not the machine do away with such controls? This is all hypothetical, and I understand that there is a large contingent that thinks that this is the way that we not only are heading, but SHOULD be heading, but I think that this needs way more thought. As a society, we aren't even capable of getting along with one another, not just across borders, but across the street. Now we are seriously considering giving an uncontrollable machine the intellegence and abilities that humans don't have? What purpose does that serve other than to increase the unemployment rate?

    If AI is going to become reality, why can't it be focused on actual usefullness, as opposed to Sci-Fi coolness. Such as, do we need a robot that understands humans, is far more intellegent than we are, and is unable to be controlled by us? Or would it perhaps be more prudent to build a computer that is capable of higher thinking, as humans are, to help with the man-machine interface, increase productivity, etc, etc? This would allow us to continue to control the situation, while reaping the benefits.

    An even better question - why are we focusing so hard on developing computer "brains" when there are plenty of real live human brains that could use help (that's not a dumb-people quip, I'm talking about Alzheimers, Parkensons, Epilepsy, etc).