Artificial Intelligence is colossally hyped these days, but the dirty little secret is that it still has a long, long way to go. Sure, A.I. systems have mastered an array of games, from chess and Go to “Jeopardy” and poker, but the technology continues to struggle in the real world. Robots fall over while opening doors, prototype driverless cars frequently need human intervention, and nobody has yet designed a machine that can read reliably at the level of a sixth grader, let alone a college student. Computers that can educate themselves — a mark of true intelligence — remain a dream.Even the trendy technique of “deep learning,” which uses artificial neural networks to discern complex statistical correlations in huge amounts of data, often comes up short. Some of the best image-recognition systems, for example, can successfully distinguish dog breeds, yet remain capable of major blunders, like mistaking a simple pattern of yellow and black stripes for a school bus. Such systems can neither comprehend what is going on in complex visual scenes (“Who is chasing whom and why?”) nor follow simple instructions (“Read this story and summarize what it means”).
What we need:
To get computers to think like humans, we need a new A.I. paradigm, one that places “top down” and “bottom up” knowledge on equal footing. Bottom-up knowledge is the kind of raw information we get directly from our senses, like patterns of light falling on our retina. Top-down knowledge comprises cognitive models of the world and how it works.
Marcus goes on to argue that the current methods of funding AI–small academic labs and somewhat larger industrial labs–are inadequate. Academic labs are too small to gather the wide variety of talent needed to make significant progress. Industrial labs are too focused on short-term results.
I look with envy at my peers in high-energy physics, and in particular at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, a huge, international collaboration, with thousands of scientists and billions of dollars of funding. [...]An international A.I. mission focused on teaching machines to read could genuinely change the world for the better — the more so if it made A.I. a public good, rather than the property of a privileged few.