We are presently living in an age of "artificial intelligence" -- but not how the companies selling "AI" would have you believe. According to Silicon Valley, machines are rapidly surpassing human performance on a variety of tasks from mundane, but well-defined and useful ones like automatic transcription to much vaguer skills like "reading comprehension" and "visual understanding." According to some, these skills even represent rapid progress toward "Artificial General Intelligence," or systems which are capable of learning new skills on their own. Given these grand and ultimately false claims, we need media coverage that holds tech companies to account. Far too often, what we get instead is breathless "gee whiz" reporting, even in venerable publications like The New York Times.
Who can deny the chilly breeze blowing through some quarters of the AI world? While many continue to bask in the glorious summertime ushered in by the ascendency of deep learning, some are sensing autumnal winds which carry with them cautionary words we have all heard many times, such as "black box", "poor generalization", "brittle", "lacking reasoning", "biased", "no common sense", and "unsustainable". Whether or not we are truly headed for a new AI winter, artificial intelligence certainly has a long way to go to take on human intelligence. And yet, human intelligence is not a particularly new topic of research. It has long been studied by many of mankind's most piercing intellects, going back at least 2300 years to Aristotle, the "father of logic" and the "father of psychology". Through the six works comprising his Organon, as well as a few others such as his Metaphysics and On the Soul, Aristotle laid the foundations for our understanding of logic, reasoning, and knowledge.
Just like Sedol Lee was defeated by AlphaGo three or four years ago, there was an atmosphere that artificial intelligence would replace experts in medicine and replace everything in the world. The achievements of AI in the medical field were recorded one by one in an IEEE Spectrum ("AI versus Doctor"; https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8048826). However, since a year or two ago, the main focus has moved to the role of artificial intelligence as an assistance tool for experts, and recently, it is not uncommon to hear that artificial intelligence is not making a profit in business. Even IBM's Watson was sold with some criticism. There may be a problem in some way, so why are we hearing these news?
ANJA KASPERSEN: Today I am very pleased to be joined by Pascale Fung. Pascale is a;rofessor in the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering and Department of Computer Science and Engineering at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. She is known globally for her pioneering work on conversational artificial intelligence (AI), computational linguistics, and was one of the earliest proponents of statistical and machine-learning approaches for natural language processing (NLP). She is now leading groundbreaking research on how to build intelligent systems that can understand and empathize with humans. I have really been looking forward to this conversation with you. Your professional accolades are many, most of which we will touch on during our conversation. However, for our listeners to get to know you a bit better, I would like us to go back to your upbringing during what I understand to be a very tenuous political period in China. I was born, spent my childhood, ...
The conversation is on hold. The Edge community has hit the road... or they're staying home. Preparing for the academic year to begin, wrapping up projects and starting new ones, celebrating with family and friends or contemplating in solitude. After a hiatus, Edge is pleased to revive Summer Postcards: Edgies reporting in from wherever they are and on whatever they're doing, as the dog days wind out and the season comes to a close. As the world slowly returns to a "new normal" with enduring COVID restrictions in the midst of renewed vaccine freedoms, this year's collection is a testament to change (temporary and lasting), a consideration of loss (will travel ever be like it was?), and a celebration of questions (that still need answering). The hammock may be away until next year, but the memories remain. I spent the summer writing and revising the final section of a longish novel I started in 2019. It seems now as though I've been from 1946 to 2021 on my hands and knees. Various lockdowns have been a liberation from obligations and the luggage carousel, and I've never known such sweet and total focus for months on end. We have the luxury of living in the country--no shortage of big skies and moody walks. All our few breaks were in the UK--Scotland, the Lake District, the West country. Even in our remote part of the Lakes, I had to keep on writing--as in photo. The best novel I read this summer was Sandro Veronesi's The Hummingbird. Best non-fiction was Peter Godfrey Smith's Metazoa: Animal Life and the Birth of the Mind. I gave time also to some wonderful novellas--perfect fictional form for you too-busy scientists. IAN MCEWAN is a novelist whose works have earned him worldwide critical acclaim. He is the recipient of the Man Booker Prize for Amsterdam (1998), the National Book Critics' Circle Fiction Award, and the Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction for Atonement (2003). His most recent novel is Machines Like Me. In 2019, Časlav Brukner and myself were walking on a beach on Lamma Island, near Hong Kong, marvelling together at the astonishing strangeness of quantum phenomena. This summer, the conversation with Časlav has continued on another island, and quite an island: Lesbos, the northern Greek island near the Turkish coast. Lesbos is the place where lyrical poetry was born. Here lived Sappho and Alcaeus.