Bieger, Jordi

Why Artificial Intelligence Needs a Task Theory --- And What It Might Look Like Artificial Intelligence

The concept of "task" is at the core of artificial intelligence (AI): Tasks are used for training and evaluating AI systems, which are built in order to perform and automatize tasks we deem useful. In other fields of engineering theoretical foundations allow thorough evaluation of designs by methodical manipulation of well understood parameters with a known role and importance; this allows an aeronautics engineer, for instance, to systematically assess the effects of wind speed on an airplane's performance and stability. No framework exists in AI that allows this kind of methodical manipulation: Performance results on the few tasks in current use (cf. board games, question-answering) cannot be easily compared, however similar or different. The issue is even more acute with respect to artificial *general* intelligence systems, which must handle unanticipated tasks whose specifics cannot be known beforehand. A *task theory* would enable addressing tasks at the *class* level, bypassing their specifics, providing the appropriate formalization and classification of tasks, environments, and their parameters, resulting in more rigorous ways of measuring, comparing, and evaluating intelligent behavior. Even modest improvements in this direction would surpass the current ad-hoc nature of machine learning and AI evaluation. Here we discuss the main elements of the argument for a task theory and present an outline of what it might look like for physical tasks.