These sorts of articles that pop up from time to time on slashdot are so frustrating to those of us who actually work in the field. We take an article written by someone who doesn't actually understand the field, about an contest that has always been no better than a publicity stunt*, which triggers a whole bunch of speculation by people who read Godel, Escher, Bach and think they understand what's going on.
The answer is simple. AI researchers haven't forgotten the end goal, and it's not some cynical ploy to advance an academic career. We stopped asking the big-AI question because we realized it was an inappropriate time to ask it. By analogy: These days physicists spend a lot of time thinking about the big central unify everything theory, and that's great. In 1700, that would have been the wrong question to ask- there were too many phenomenons that we didn't understand yet (energy, EM, etc). We realized 20 years ago that we were chasing ephemera and not making real progress, and redeployed our resources in ways to understand what the problem really was. It's too bad this doesn't fit our SciFi timetable, all we can do is apologize. And PLEASE do not mention any of that "singularity" BS.
I know, I know, -1 flamebait. Go ahead.
*Note I didn't say it was a publicity stunt, just that it was no better than one. Stuart Shieber at Harvard wrote an excellent dismantling of the idea 20 years ago.
Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened. -- Winston Churchill