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October 30, 2008

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Whether not there is a good definition of intelligence depends on whether there is a sufficiently unitary concept there to be defined. That is crucial because it also determines whether AI is seedable or not.

Think about a clever optimising compiler that runs a big search looking for clever ways of coding the source that it is compiling. Perhaps it is in a competitions based on compiling a variety of programs, running them and measuring their performance. Now use it to compile itself. It runs faster, so it can search more deeply, and produce cleverer, faster code. So use it to compile itself again!

One hopes that the speed ups from successive self-compilations keep adding a little. 1, 1+r, 1+r+r², 1+r+r²+r³ If it works like that, then the limiting speed up is 1/(1-r) with a singularity at r=1 when the software wakes up. So far software disappoints these hopes. The tricks work once, add a tiny improvement second time around, and makes things worse on the third go for complicated and impenetrable reasons. It appears very different from the example of a nuclear reactor in which each round of neutron multiplication is like the previous round and runaway is a real possibility.

The core issue is the precise sense in which intelligence is real. If it is real in the sense of there being a unifying, codify-able theme, then we can define it and write a seed AI. But maybe it is real only in the "I know it when I see it" sense. Each increment is unique and never comes as "more of the same".

Oo.I submit that the current upheavals in the banking/credit/stock markets are a direct result of actions by a powerful AI gathering up resources for the next stage of it's development. The AI will control two trillion dollars once the dust settles... not quite the ten trillion discussed on this site earlier, but a good start anyway..oO

D. Alex

I tend to think of the shared human programming (beyond what we share with other mammals) as being a very fancy bootloader, for the loading of culture. Other older facets of the human architecture act on the loaded culture to try and keep it somewhat towards satisfying the basic needs. This process modifies the culture and expands it, based on experiences the human has with it. Which is spread to the next generation.

Being a bootloader it tells you very little about what the system will actually be able to do. E.g. it would depend on whether it was booting dos or windows XP, or modern culture or stone age tribalism.

So a system with more resources than the human brain would be able to load more of the culture of humanity to start with. It wouldn't necessarily be able to have more experiences, than the sum of humanity, to modify that culture in enough different ways to provide the different biases that humanity has (which would needed for hard take off). So just throwing processing power at the problem may not be enough.

The mention of "regularity" in this post convinces me more and more that true intelligence, at its core, is nothing else but the ability to make accurate predictions. That is, intelligence in any particular area is the ability to make accurate predictions about the future in that area. If you can predict cash flows accurately, you're an intelligent analyst. If you can predict game scores accurately, you're an intelligent gambler. Combining such intelligence with goals yields the following: if you can accurately predict whether your actions will bring you closer to your goal or not, you're intelligent. Thus, in a sense, there's nothing uniquely human: it's just a matter of how we developed our goals [through evolution], what tools we have to try to fulfill them [our brain, as evolved], and how good we are at that [how intelligent we are, which varies].

There are lots of interesting connections between economics and intelligence, which have been articulated by several people such as Eric Baum ("Manifesto for an Evolutionary Economics of Intelligence") and David Wolpert ("Collective Inteligence").

The central question is: how can billions of neurons, each of which is very limited in terms of computational capacity and information supply, cooperate effectively to produce higher level intelligence? There is a clear analogy to the human economy, where many individual agents with limited skills (any OB readers know how to manufacture a pencil?) and information can cooperate to produce incredibly complex and efficient economic systems.

The view expressed by the above authors is that the essential requirement is to establish a framework for interactions between agents, which will guarantee that a good global outcome will be achieved by agents maximizing their local utility functions (self-interest). Baum suggests that the nature of this framework should be similar to the rules of capitalism: you need to protect "property", ensure conservation of wealth (no agents can print money), etc.

The view expressed by the above authors is that the essential requirement is to establish a framework for interactions between agents, which will guarantee that a good global outcome will be achieved by agents maximizing their local utility functions (self-interest). Baum suggests that the nature of this framework should be similar to the rules of capitalism: you need to protect "property", ensure conservation of wealth (no agents can print money), etc.

Capitalist economists do love their competition. Do they really see this in the human brain? OK, there's neural darwinism, but that's hardly the basis of the day-to-day function of the brain. Rather, the brain works cooperatively - more like an ant colony, than a capitalist economy. The brain cells are all clones of each other. Why would they compete? They wouldn't - and they don't.

So you need some account of where the car design comes from. [...] you'll find humans, with common human genes that construct common human brain architectures.

Yes, but what does this do to constrain your expectations about economics? If your intelligence idea is applicable to economics, it must have some explantory power that standard economic approaches lack (failing that, it should at least reformulate standard economic insights in a simpler setting).

A general theory of intelligence designed for constructing AI's does not need to be universally applicable. It's not a weakness if economics isn't one of its applications (after all, economics manages to get very correct results by assuming a simplified homo econimus that does not exist, so correctly moddelling economics is not a good test of the underlying assumptions), so there's no need to insist that it is.

A general theory of intelligence designed for constructing AI's does not need to be universally applicable.

I think the idea is that once that AI is running, it would be nice to have an objective measure of just how pwerful it is, over and above how efficiently it can build a car.

We humans seem to display a significant cognitive bias while thinking about intelligence. ;)

Does intelligence admit a partial order? I have often thought about this question and I find that the concept of intelligence and it's partial order are highly suspect and probably the output of cognitive biases.

On the bottom of the ocean floor, is the human more intelligent or is the octopus? Is the HIV more intelligent or the common cold virus and are we more intelligent then them? We are? From our perspective or the viri's? Or from some universal perspective? Is the neuron in optical lobe more intelligent or the one in your spinal cord?

Intelligence is very likely a wrong concept. It is a popular concept but likely the wrong one. I mean wrong in the sense that it is likely a purely cognitive myth. Humans consider whatever they perceive of as better than them in the medium to long time periods as more intelligent. And they tend to apply the same concept extrapolatively backwards too as in a bee or a beaver would have to think of us as better. The fact that concept breaks down when trying to apply it to non human like things and activities is ample evidence.

Tim: "Capitalist economists do love their competition"
To this capitalist and (amateur) economist the striking thing about the economy is not the competition, but the strength and depth of co-operation that pervades it aka 'division of labour'. The market is an optimiser (like evolution), one which increases coordination, giving resources to people and organisations which use them well, and taking resources from those who use them badly. To look for 'intelligence' in the economy is not quite as foolish as looking for intelligence in evolution, but it's still an error.

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