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Comment There is nothing new under the sun (Score 2) 46

"Gentlemen, you are now about to embark on a course of studies which will occupy you for two years. Together, they form a noble adventure. But I would like to remind you of an important point. Nothing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in after life, save only this, that if you work hard and intelligently you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole, purpose of education".

- John Alexander Smith, Professor of Moral Philosophy, Oxford University, 1914.

Comment Re:The end (Score 1) 85

Er, not really. As long as the "intelligence" takes the form of algorithms, that means human beings are devising sets of rules for computers to follow. That is not very intelligent - or, at least, the intelligence involved is indirect, remote and attenuated. The people who specify the software's behaviour must communicate what they want clearly, unambiguously, completely and consistently to the programmers, who then have to do the same thing in their code. Finally, the computer does whatever the original specifiers could think of in response to events that they were able to conceive of. A physical analogy would be trying to tie your shoelaces using a pair of 30-foot-long tweezers - only much worse.

The very essence of real intelligence is the ability to recognise patterns immediately and respond to them in creatively flexible - if not always entirely new - ways. The art of making neural networks and the like, which are able to work that way, is in its infancy.

And even when those systems become "production strength", we will face their biggest problem: non-transparency. How far can you trust a superhuman intelligence that not only doesn't explain to you the reasons for its decisions, but is fundamentally unable to do so?

For details, see James Hogan's SF novel "The Two Faces of Tomorrow" (you can skip the fictional part for our purposes here, and just read the lectures on AI). By the way, Hogan was a computer engineer.

Comment Re:Should be obvious (Score 2) 130

Considering we're supposed to be the smartest animal on the planet you'd think we would have learned by now.

A few individuals - a very few - are intelligent, and of those some are creatively intelligent. The species homo sapiens is not intelligent. How can you argue otherwise, when other social animals such as wasps, ants, bees and termites have thriven for over 100 million years, whereas we have existed as a distinct species for maybe 2 million years and in our present, grotesquely mutated, "civilized" form for 10,000 years - and we are on the very brink of self-extermination?

There is no call for anything drastic or spectacular like thermonuclear war. All it will take is another century of "progress".

'Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded--here and there, now and then--are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck.”'

- Notebooks of Lazarus Long, from "Time Enough For Love" by R. A. Heinlein

Comment Is this the new definition of insanity? (Score 4, Interesting) 130

“Every year, in late winter or early spring, some 3,000 trucks drive across the United States carrying around 40 billion bees to California’s Central Valley, which houses more than 60 million almond trees... Californian growers now spend $250 million a year on bees”.

"Farmageddon", Philip Lymbery with Isabel Oakeshott, p 63.

Californian growers do not spend that money for fun. They do it because otherwise they will have no crop. Good luck producing 40 billion tiny artificial bees. (Although if the idea goes forward I would buy shares in the manufacturer - just as you will notice that there has never been a massive government IT project that Oracle didn't love).

A simpler and more practical idea would be to stop killing off the bees, which do a great job entirely free of charge.

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Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard