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Friday, March 28, 2014

Computers and Go [updated]

Recommended read: "The Electronic Holy War," about computers and the game of Go, by Patrick House at The New Yorker, noticed via Marginal Revolution. Is the difficulty computers have had in playing Go a sign that the "Our Final Invention" thesis is overwrought? Or is the improvement computers have recently shown at the game (some wins against top players when the computers are given a handicap) a data point in favor of that particular doomsday fear? Unlike with chess, I have no experience with Go, and one question I'd like to know more about is how significant are these handicaps that were given. Another thing that interests me, as a copy editor, is why Go is capitalized.

UPDATE: I don't know if any of the people involved in computer Go are also involved in machine ethics but this piece is interesting in any case: "Why Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics Can't Protect Us."

UPDATE 3/29: A very interesting piece: "The Singularity Is Further Than It Appears," by Ramez Naan. Makes multiple worthwhile arguments to that effect, and here's one that deserves more notice than it tends to get (emphasis in original):
And, indeed, should Intel, or Google, or some other organization succeed in building a smarter-than-human AI, it won't immediately be smarter than the entire set of humans and computers that built it, particularly when you consider all the contributors to the hardware it runs on, the advances in photolighography techniques and metallurgy required to get there, and so on. Those efforts have taken tens of thousands of minds, if not hundreds of thousands. The first smarter-than-human AI won't come close to equaling them. And so, the first smarter-than-human mind won't take over the world. But it may find itself with good job offers to join one of those organizations.
Me: Decades ago, I read Steven Rose's book The Conscious Brain, which had an emphasis on the idea of consciousness as being in important ways a social phenomenon. This reflected Rose's affinity for Marxism, but that doesn't mean it's wrong. A lot of thinking about AI, including alarmism about it, fails to recognize that how smart an individual entity becomes isn't the whole story.

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