AI News, Hyping Artificial Intelligence, Yet Again

Hyping Artificial Intelligence, Yet Again

This past Sunday’s story, by John Markoff, announced that “computers have entered the age when they are able to learn from their own mistakes, a development that is about to turn the digital world on its head.” The deep-learning story, from a year ago, also by Markoff, told us of “advances in an artificial intelligence technology that can recognize patterns offer the possibility of machines that perform human activities like seeing, listening and thinking.” For fans of “Battlestar Galactica,” it sounds like exciting stuff.

As the author notes in passing, “the new computing approach” is “already in use by some large technology companies.” Mostly, the article seems to be about neuromorphic processors—computer processors that are organized to be somewhat brainlike—though, as the piece points out, they have been around since the nineteen-eighties.

(If you check the archives, the Times billed it as a revolution, with the headline “NEW NAVY DEVICE LEARNS BY DOING.” The New Yorker similarly gushed about the advancement.) The only new thing mentioned is a computer chip, as yet unproven but scheduled to be released this year, along with the claim that it can “potentially [make] the term ‘computer crash’ obsolete.” Steven Pinker wrote me an e-mail after reading the Times story, saying “We’re back in 1985!”—the last time there was huge hype in the mainstream media about neural networks.

lab, put it a few months ago in a Google+ post, a kind of open letter to the media, “AI [has] ‘died’ about four times in five decades because of hype: people made wild claims (often to impress potential investors or funding agencies) and could not deliver.

after typing in “better than ‘Cats!’ ” (which the system correctly interpreted as positive), the first thing I tested was a Rotten Tomatoes excerpt of a review of the last movie I saw, “American Hustle”: “A sloppy, miscast, hammed up, overlong, overloud story that still sends you out of the theater on a cloud of rapture.” The deep-learning system couldn’t tell me that the review was ironic, or that the reviewer thought the whole was more than the sum of the parts.

As a more balanced article on the same topic in Technology Review recently reported, some neuroscientists, including Henry Markram, the director of a European project to simulate the human brain, are quite skeptical of the currently implemented neuromorphic systems on the grounds that their representations of the brain are too simplistic and abstract.

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