The rigid, analytical math-oriented bias of that approach to AI [that is, the approach of the singularitarian/Less Wrong/Bayesian triumphalist Robot Cult sect over which guru-wannabe Eliezer Yudkowsky presides] 1) harks back to the GOFAI of the 50s and 60s, when some folks expected the whole thing to be soluble by a smart grad student spending a summer on it 2) reinforces Yudkowsky's own dear image of himself as a consummate mathematician 3) is congruent with the kind of Ayn Randian, libertopian bias among so many of the SF-fan, >Hist crowd.I think there are enormously clarifying observations packed into that paragraph, and folks really should re-read it.
Speaking of the way such singularitarians and their singularipope hark back to the most failed, most inept, most sociopathic, most boyz-n-toys AI discourse of mid-century Gernsbackian-pulp post-WW2 U!S!A! footurism, I can't help but cite another passage from "Less Wrong" that JimF drew to my attention in a private e-mail a couple of days ago. In it "Stuart_Armstrong" declares:
I've just been through the proposal for the Dartmouth AI conference of 1956, and it's a surprising read. All I really knew about it was its absurd optimism, as typified by the quote:
An attempt will be made to find how to make machines use language, form abstractions and concepts, solve kinds of problems now reserved for humans, and improve themselves. We think that a significant advance can be made in one or more of these problems if a carefully selected group of scientists work on it together for a summer.But then I read the rest of the document, and was... impressed. Go ahead and read it, and give me your thoughts. Given what was known in 1955, they were grappling with the right issues, and seemed to be making progress in the right directions and have plans and models for how to progress further. Seeing the phenomenally smart people who were behind this (McCarthy, Minsky, Rochester, Shannon), and given the impressive progress that computers had been making in what seemed very hard areas of cognition (remember that this was before we discovered Moravec's paradox)... I have to say that had I read this back in 1955, I think the rational belief would have been [emphasis added] 'AI is probably imminent'. Some overconfidence, no doubt, but no good reason to expect these prominent thinkers to be so spectacularly wrong on something they were experts in.
Although our so-wrong less-wrongist Robot Cultist cannot help but point to the "overconfidence" of these sentiments -- given the actual, factual reality of their complete flabbergasting serial failedness and wrongness and ridiculousness -- you can tell his heart just isn't in all that.
Where sensible people look at these pronouncements and see the radically impoverished conception of intelligence and ridiculously triumphalist conception of technoscience driving the discourse, the Robot Cultist finds himself saying... Dag, those dumb sociopathic white guys were really onto something there! Man, were they rational and right or what to believe so irrationally in what was so wrong! Gosh, I sure love those guys! Notice that even the retroactive assessment of the Bayesian triumphalist cannot let the, you know, reality of how "spectacularly wrong" they all were to provide a "good reason" getting in the way of the still-unqualitifed still-energetic assertion that this army of fail was filled to the brim with "prominent thinkers" and "experts" in sound AI.
About Jim's glancing reference to the Randroidal pot-boiler & pulp SF associations of this Bayes/AI-fandom I'll add my own glancing references, noting first that the entitative figuration of their AI discourse remains far more beholden to sfnal conceits than software practice, and also pausing momentarily to observe how curiously often sooper-genius Yudkowsky's highest profile formulations have seemed to depend on frankly facile, rather ungainly, high-school English level appropriations from popular fiction like Flowers for Algernon or Harry Potter. No doubt a paradigm-shattering "metaethical" treatise riffing on I Am the Cheese is soon forthcoming.