Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Falling prey to machines

12.02.2003


Can sentient machines evolve?



It’s coming, but when? From Garry Kasparov to Michael Crichton, both fact and fiction are converging on a showdown between man and machine. But what does a leading artificial intelligence expert--the world’s first computer science PhD--think about the future of machine intelligence? Will computers ever gain consciousness and take over the world?

"Computer sentience is possible," said John Holland, professor of electrical engineering and computer science and professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. "But for a number of reasons, I don’t believe that we are anywhere near that stage right now."


In the 1960s, Holland created the field of genetic algorithms, a process in which computers solve problems by mimicking biological evolution. By adapting concepts of natural selection and sexual reproduction to computer programming, Holland showed that computers could "evolve" their programming to solve complex problems in ways that even their creators did not fully understand.

Researchers have since then been able to use genetic algorithms to "breed" optimal solutions for things like managing energy distribution systems or designing ultra-efficient aircraft engines. Genetic algorithms also provide the basis for much of Michael Crichton’s best-selling novel Prey, in which nano-sized machines evolve into an intelligent, life-threatening swarm. Holland’s research and that of several of his students is cited as source material for the book.

But evolving solutions for well-defined optimization problems is distinctly different than synthesizing something as opened-ended as consciousness or freewill.

According to Holland, the problem with developing artificial intelligence through things like genetic algorithms is that researchers don’t yet understand how to define what computer programs should be evolving toward. Human beings did not evolve to be intelligent--they evolved to survive. Intelligence was just one of many traits that human beings exploited to increase their odds of survival, and the test for survival was absolute. Defining an equivalent test of fitness for targeting intelligence as an evolutionary goal for machines, however, has been elusive. Thus, it is difficult to draw comparisons between how human intelligence developed and how artificial intelligence could evolve.

"We don’t understand enough about how our own human software works to come even close to replicating it on a computer," says Holland.

According to Holland, advances in software have not kept pace with the exponential improvements in hardware processing power, and there are many artificial intelligence problems that cannot be solved by simply performing more calculations. While hardware performance continues to double almost every year and a half, the doubling time for software performance is at least 20 years.

"In the final analysis, hardware is just a way of executing programs," says Holland. "It’s the software that counts."

Comparisons between the brain and electronic hardware are also difficult to draw. For example, the issue of "fanout" demonstrates the complexity of the brain over even today’s most sophisticated computers. Fanout refers to the number of connections an element in a network can have to another element of a network. Today’s most complicated computers have a fanout factor of about 10. The human brain, however, has a fanout of 10,000.

"We don’t have the faintest idea of what machines with that kind of fanout would be like, so inference from the capabilities of present machines to such machines is feeble at best," notes Holland. "As Nobel Laureate physicist Murray Gell-Mann says, three orders of magnitude is a new science."

Advances in hardware, however, have helped computers tackle simpler feats of human-like intelligence with some success. In 1997, IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer was the first machine to beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov. In a recent rematch, Deep Blue’s successor, Deep Junior, fought Kasparov to a dramatic 3-3 draw. Kasparov said he played better than the machine and would have pressed a human opponent for a win, but he was afraid that the tireless computer would punish him for on any small mistake he might have made in his fatigue.

"It is a remarkable, but not necessarily surprising accomplishment for computers to play chess at this level. They’ve been approaching this kind of capability for years," says Holland of the Kasparov-Deep Junior match. "But AI researchers are much more amazed that human beings can still compete with computers on such an even basis given their limited abilities for detailed search. It shows us how much we don’t know about the human brain."

Human beings approach playing chess very differently than computers. Kasparov, the top ranking chess player in the world, can probably evaluate about two or three moves a second, relying on his superb intuition and pattern-recognition abilities--things very difficult to teach a computer--to help him win. Deep Junior, on the other hand, crunches up to 3 million moves per second and draws on a huge library of past games and possible moves to succeed. Relying on a weighted algorithm that calculates a numerical advantage representing each possible move, the computer mostly powers through a list of potential ways any given game can play out.

"Until the last decade of the 20th century, AI relied on clever programming and brute computation," says Holland. "Deep Junior is an example of this approach. But the next step for machine intelligence will be in getting them to invent truly creative solutions to complex problems."

For Holland, the crucial leap in machine intelligence will be when computers start thinking like human beings, rather than just reaching the same results as them with different processes. This kind of advanced artificial intelligence would involve learning new skills, adapting to unforeseen circumstances and using analogy and metaphor like humans do. To make these breakthroughs possible, researchers will need an overarching theory that can shape the field of artificial intelligence in the same way that Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism shaped modern physics.

"We are at the earliest stages of theory-making in AI and mature theories of this kind typically take decades of work," says Holland. "Sentient computers are possible, but I don’t think we will have them until we have such guidance."

Holland is a pioneer in the fields of artificial intelligence, parallel computation, adaptive systems and cognitive processes, and author of the book Hidden Order: How Adaptation Builds Complexity. He received the world’s first PhD in computer science in 1959 from the University of Michigan. He also holds an MA (’54) in mathematics from the University of Michigan and a BS (’50) in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


###
Useful Links
http://technetcast.ddj.com/tnc_catalog.html?item_id=565
http://www.arch.columbia.edu/DDL/cad/A4513/S2001/r7/
http://www.santafe.edu/sfi/publications/Bulletins/bulletinFall00/features/holland.html

The University of Michigan College of Engineering is consistently ranked among the top engineering schools in the world. The College is composed of 11 academic departments: aerospace engineering; atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences; biomedical engineering; chemical engineering; civil and environmental engineering; electrical engineering and computer science; industrial and operations engineering; materials science and engineering; mechanical engineering; naval architecture and marine engineering; and nuclear engineering and radiological sciences. Each year the College enrolls over 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students and grants about 1,200 undergraduate degrees and 800 masters and doctoral degrees. For more information, please visit our web site at www.engin.umich.edu.


Neal Lao | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.engin.umich.edu/

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Equipping form with function
23.06.2017 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

nachricht Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity
23.06.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>