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Unthinking Machines

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Image courtesy of Technology Review

An artificial intelligence panel discussion at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT's) recent Brains, Minds and Machines symposium called for a return to the research style driven more by curiosity rather than narrow applications.

Some artificial intelligence researchers, such as former MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory director Patrick Winston, said the field got off track due to a lack of funding after the Cold War ended. Meanwhile, research focusing on ever-narrower specialties such as neural networks or genetic algorithms led to a mechanistic balkanization of the field, according to Winston.

"When you dedicate your conferences to mechanisms, there's a tendency to not work on fundamental problems, but rather [just] those problems that the mechanisms can deal with," he said. Winston would prefer if researchers focused on developing systems that accentuate those traits that make humans unique from other primates, such as the ability to create stories using language.

"I am optimistic that in the next few years, we will make a lot of progress, and the reason is that there are many laboratories scattered in various parts of the world that are pursuing humanoid robotics," says MIT researcher Emilio Bizzi.

From Technology Review
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