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The true state of artificial intelligence

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9 November 2012

The Blue Brain Project is an attempt by Swiss scientists to create a synthetic brain. According to some, it\'s just about to achieve AI.
The Blue Brain Project is an attempt by Swiss scientists to create a synthetic brain. According to some, its set to achieve artificial intelligence by 2018. Image source: iStock

Artificial Intelligence has come a long way since the invention of the programmable digital computer in the 1940s, but its ability to ever simulate human intelligence remains debatable.

Dr Kevin Korb from Monash University’s Clayton School of Information Technology will be discussing what stage artificial intelligence (AI) has reached in his upcoming lecture ‘A history of Artificial Intelligence: AI as a degenerating scientific research program’.

“The goal of AI as a discipline is to produce AI as an artefact, and the motivations for that are many and diverse,” Dr Korb said.

“One motive that is both powerful and pervasive is to better understand ourselves, and what we are made of intellectually.”

British mathematician Alan Turing, widely considered the father of both computer science and artificial intelligence, discussed the question of whether machines could think in his 1950 paper, ‘Computer Machinery and Intelligence’.

“Since that time many thousands have worked on one aspect or another of the AI research program and it has achieved a great many things, but where is the AI?” Dr Korb said.

Three answers have been prominent in the debates around AI, according to Dr Korb.

“The first possibility is that AI is, was, and always will be brain dead. American philosopher Hubert Dreyfus argues that traditional AI – using rules, symbols and data structures – cannot possibly simulate human intelligence,” Dr Korb said.

“The second possibility is AI is coming, and, indeed, it’s almost here. It needs only another decade or two to put human brain simulation within our grasp, at which point the evolution of humanity will be overtaken and absorbed by the evolution of our artefacts.

“The final possibility is if an AI is to ever be achieved, it will require a long-term, collective effort of a lot of scientists over many generations.”

Dr Korb will defend one of these answers at his talk, which is part of the ‘History of Science, Mathematics, Philosophy and Technology’ lecture series, organised by Dr Alan Dorin from the Monash Faculty of Information Technology.

‘A history of Artificial Intelligence: AI as a degenerating scientific research program’ will be held from 2-3pm on Wednesday, 14 November 2012 in Seminar Room 135, Building 26, at Monash University’s Clayton campus.