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Question: When will AI become part of our everyday lives?

Frank Rose: When I wrote the book I did on AI, it came out 25 years ago, it was a very, very different time in the discipline. I wrote a book about a group of grad students of Berkeley who were trying to program a computer to have common sense. And, in particular, there was one guy who had given his computer a problem which was—we’re anthropomorphizing here a bit—but the computer woke up in the morning and it looked outside and it saw that it was raining and it had to decide to put on a raincoat before it went outside. So really, the whole book with a way was about this guy trying to get his computer to put on a raincoat–-and without great success. And one of the things that interested me about Berkeley was not only with this sort of compelling group of students and of faculty advisers who had worked with Roger Schank at Yale in one of the leading AI researches, but there are also a couple of philosophers there who for different reasons took issue with the whole idea of AI.

One of them was Henry Dreyfus who argued that this approach wasn’t going to work. That it was—one metaphor that he used—was like building a stairway to the moon: yes, it will get you closer, but it won’t get you there—and that’s kind of what happened. This idea that you can program a computer to have to be in situations and have certain types of thoughts that you give it in some, you know, more or less god like way. It has really, you know, not panned out and what is happening is, we’re beginning to see emergent systems. You know, systems where computers begin to show emergent intelligence and that seems to work in a way that somewhat resembles a brain and their massively parallel processing, and that sort of thing. So, that seems to be a much more promising area and I think people like Chris Wyler are forecasting some pretty radical developments. We’ll see where that goes, but it certainly…it’s certainly a long way from where it was when I was writing about it.

Recorded on: May 21, 2009


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