- Optimism during the Golden Years

Optimism during the Golden Years

Our coexistence with artificial intelligence hinges on combining what is humanly unattainable — the hugely scaled narrow AI intelligence that will only get better at any given domain with what we humans can uniquely offer to one another ... Narrow AI has no self awareness, emotions, or a heart. Narrow AI has no sense of beauty, fun, or humor. It doesn't even have feelings or self-consciousness. Can you imagine the ecstasy that comes from beating a world champion? AlphaGo bested the globe's best player, but took no pleasure in the game, felt no happiness from winning, and had no desire to hug a loved one after its victory.

Kai-Fu Lee, A Blueprint for Coexistence with Artificial Intelligence


Since the introduction of consumer-level AI technologies and business applications featuring AI assistance, such implementations have been the consistent subject of fascination and scrutiny.

From Microsoft Office's Clippy to Amazon Alexa, many consumer products seek to imitate human interactions with some success, while businesses are eager to incorporate AI insights as part of their decision making processes. Despite this enthusiasm, it is difficult to consider AI a genuine partner rather than a mere tool designed to facilitate individual tasks: AI assistants are yet to understand the "bigger picture" of the user's or the organization's overarching objective and respond proactively as a teammate.

Recent progress in AI research presents an exciting vision of the world where human users and machine agents can actively communicate and collaborate with each other, yet today’s available solutions offer little more than chatbots and smart speakers passively standing by for user requests. Below readings introduce some of the seminal concepts that underpinned the intense optimism associated with early artificial intelligence research.

Talking to machines

Clever Bots
"And then he found a match--an attractive brunette from Russia named Svetlana. They struck up a correspondence that hummed along for 2 months...until a little bell went off in Robert's head, and he realized not only that Svetlana wasn't the woman of his dreams...she wasn't a woman at all."

Planning in artificial intelligence

Micro-World AI
"The real world is full of distracting and obscuring detail: generally science progresses by focussing on artificially simple models of reality ... In 1970 Marvin Minsky and Seymour Papert, of the MIT AI Laboratory, proposed that AI research should likewise focus on developing programs capable of intelligent behaviour in artificially simple situations known as micro-worlds."

Government interest

(D)ARPA: (Defense) Advanced Research Project Agency
"In 1957, only twelve years after publication of Arthur C. Clarke’s seminal paper describing the idea of satellites, the Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik I, beating the United States into space. This meant that the USSR could theoretically launch bombs into space and then drop them down anywhere on earth. The American military became highly alarmed."