Artificial Intelligence “Jolted by Success”

Steven Aftergood in SecrecyNews: “Since 2010, the field of artificial intelligence (AI) has been “jolted” by the “broad and unforeseen successes” of one of its component technologies, known as multi-layer neural networks, leading to rapid developments and new applications, according to a new study from the JASON scientific advisory panel.

The JASON panel reviewed the current state of AI research and its potential use by the Department of Defense. See Perspectives on Research in Artificial Intelligence and Artificial General Intelligence Relevant to DoD, JSR-16-Task-003, January 2017….

The JASON report distinguishes between artificial intelligence — referring to the ability of computers to perform particular tasks that humans do with their brains — and artificial general intelligence (AGI) — meaning a human-like ability to pursue long-term goals and exercise purposive behavior.

“Where AI is oriented around specific tasks, AGI seeks general cognitive abilities.” Recent progress in AI has not been matched by comparable advances in AGI. Sentient machines, let alone a revolt of robots against their creators, are still somewhere far over the horizon, and may be permanently in the realm of fiction.

While many existing DoD weapon systems “have some degree of ‘autonomy’ relying on the technologies of AI, they are in no sense a step–not even a small step–towards ‘autonomy’ in the sense of AGI, that is, the ability to set independent goals or intent,” the JASONs said.

“Indeed, the word ‘autonomy’ conflates two quite different meanings, one relating to ‘freedom of will or action’ (like humans, or as in AGI), and the other the much more prosaic ability to act in accordance with a possibly complex rule set based on possibly complex sensor input, as in the word ‘automatic’. In using a terminology like ‘autonomous weapons’, the DoD may, as an unintended consequence, enhance the public’s confusion on this point.”…

This week the Department of Defense announced the demonstration of swarms of “autonomous” micro-drones. “The micro-drones demonstrated advanced swarm behaviors such as collective decision-making, adaptive formation flying, and self-healing,” according to a January 9 news release.

A journalistic account of recent breakthroughs in the use of artificial intelligence for machine translation appeared in the New York Times Magazine last month. See “The Great A.I. Awakening” by Gideon Lewis-Kraus, December 14, 2016…(More)”