Sunday, February 27, 2005

big minds need to be SOMs

Every now and then someone asks me why there haven't been many implementations of Marvin Minsky's Society of Mind theory of intelligence; instead, most AI people seem to use homogenous planners or inference engines and fairly uniform knowledge representation schemes, and these methods are often reasonably effective.

I've always puzzled about this myself, and I have some ideas for why this is the case. One possible reason is quite simple. It could be that the systems we've been building so far are simply too small to need the kinds of organizational principles that are described in the Society of Mind. Only now, when we are beginning to accumulate knowledge bases with millions or even billions of items, intricately represented and capable of being combined in many ways to produce many inferences, that society-like organizational principles are needed. Until now, using societal principles was overkill, like writing quicksort in object-oriented style -- procedural style is shorter, cleaner, and simpler. "Cellular" abstractions are beneficial mainly for larger programs.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Machine Desirantes

Most television science fiction these days lacks advanced ideas -- generally, they seem to be run-of-the-mill soap operas or social commentary. But the other day I ran across an impressive animated show called Ghost in the Shell. The episode concerned the development of some self-reflection and community-reflection in a group of AI robots. I was reminded a little bit of when I first saw Max Headroom on television -- it's clear that this new show is ahead of its time, in the sense that it treats as commonsensical ideas like minds being able to enter and influence other minds, AI systems that share cognitive resources so that there is a blurring of identity, and there being a continuum of entities between people and AI systems. Max Headroom didn't make it past its second season, but the world it predicted is in many ways familiar today. I expect the same to hold true for Ghost in the Shell.