Saturday, January 14, 2006
Artificial Intelligence: the great leap backwards
I've been inspired by Darwin's Dangerous Idea (Dennett) this week. It occurs to me that there will eventually exist a division in the history of man's technology. The first (which we are still in) is one characterized by intentionally designed technologies. Within this category, there is still room for accident and mistake and the hazy intentionality of inspiration, but essentially there is intention at the various stages of design. Reason and its constituent helpers are guiding the process of problem solving. The next phase of design is one of detached intentionality. Let me explain. The most breathtaking and elegant designs on earth are all natural products of evolution. The designs are so perfect, efficient and elegant that we have difficulty in understanding how they work let alone replicate them. These designs were not intentionally created, but rather were algorithmically produced by a wonderful system of constraints, mutations and inheritance. It seems plausible that when we learn to harness this kind of computational power, our problem solving ability will grow exponentially. I can envision some kind of computer simulation that produces outcomes that transcend intention and hence avoid the natural impedance of typical design thinking. Much like observing many biological entities, the design path will be obscure but the design process will be understood, at least abstractly. Curiously, tools of this sort will actually be (philosophically) Darwinian inversions since nature has no real goals whereas man certainly does. Nature doesn't desire to have a pretty flying thing and the butterfly is the design result. An evolutionary computer would be doing just that. Our current design constraints dictate certain kinds of results that are difficult to undo or even unthink when attempting to take greater leaps in design efficiency or simplicity or utility. Its a great disservice to call this kind of computing artificial intelligence when non-artificial intelligence seems like such a dullard when compared with the brilliance of nature's unintentional algorithms.
Posted by and then the_doctor