21.20, Saturday 8 Jan 2011

The AI Revolution is On, by Steven Levy at Wired: The Kiva bots may not seem very smart. They don’t possess anything like human intelligence and certainly couldn’t pass a Turing test. But they represent a new forefront in the field of artificial intelligence. Today’s AI doesn’t try to re-create the brain. Instead, it uses machine learning, massive data sets, sophisticated sensors, and clever algorithms to master discrete tasks. Examples can be found everywhere: The Google global machine uses AI to interpret cryptic human queries. Credit card companies use it to track fraud. Netflix uses it to recommend movies to subscribers. And the financial system uses it to handle billions of trades (with only the occasional meltdown).

Levy's point is that old school AI - human-equivalent computer intelligences - has been replaced by a new kind of AI: one that doesn't try to replicate the human mind. Lots of examples in his article.

Fractional AI

I've been calling this "fractional AI," a kind of domesticated, not-very-intelligent artificial intelligence, and you can find it in toys and in the algorithms in the tools that we use everyday. What I find interesting is that it's no longer high-end. Just as, in the early 1900s, the fractional horsepower engine took the power of factories into every home, and led to the washing machine, the hairdryer, the dishwasher -- fractional AI will put intelligence in our everyday products. And what then?

I've touched on the topic a couple of times in two very similar talks recently:

...but I'm not yet happy with how I'm stating the trend, or its opportunities. I have another talk in a month that I'm going to use for a deeper exploration, and that's the one I'll publish more widely.

Follow-up posts: