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We used to be 4 but I thought it was better to move before having a choc' overdose
Seulement, dans certains cas, n'est-ce pas, on n'entend guère que ce qu'on désire entendre et ce qui vous arrange le mieux... [^] Joe never complained of anything but ever did his duty in his way of life, with a strong hand, a quiet tongue, and a gentle heart [^]
What if, in the near future, advances in technology allowed us to build massive arrays of supercomputers able to support emergent artificial intelligence. What if such an array was complex enough that we could upload a human mind into it. And what if that mind, freed from organic constraints and with storage, power and speed far beyond what a mere brain could provide, had tools at its disposal -- including programmable, self-assembling nanobot -- to shape the world as it saw fit. Would it be the next stage in human evolution? Or would it be the end of human kind?
AI research has been going on since shortly after computers were invented and the result of all of that has been less than amazing. Other fields have make significant gains with the advent of computers but AI hasn't had any amazing breakthroughs.
I'm curious though: when you say "amazing breakthroughs", what do you have in mind? If you mean human-like computer minds, then yes, we are still some ways off (though we might be closer than you think [^]); but that's a little like saying there's been no breakthroughs in space exploration since the Sputnik because we don't yet have colonies outside the Earth. That is the goal and we're working on it: but the target problem is so mind-bogglingly hard, the progress we have made so far is remarkable even if we still don't look too close to solving it.
And in some ways the AI challenge is even harder than space exploration. For one, the vision ("people living in space, the Moon and other planets") and requirements (propulsion, life support, radiation shielding etc.) of space exploration are easy enough to agree on; in contrast, see if you can get any three people to agree on what "intelligence" is. Most believe they know it when they see it – they don't [^], and even if they did, this would hardly be enough basis to steer research. With a thousand definitions to pursue, and a thousand strategies to implement each one, it's difficult to even know where "there" is, and much more so to get there.
And yet the AI field has produced many successes over these 60-odd years. LISP has revolutionized the way we look at programming languages. Optimizing compilers produce assembly code of performance comparable (often better) than the output of human experts. Scheduling systems effectively run many industrial plants – the humans are nominally in charge, but in fact all they do is take the orders and nod. Automated VLSI design tools have progressed to a point nobody fully understands the architecture of modern microchips anymore. Automated translation, while still a bit trite, has become good enough for everyday use (I use Google Translate to read messages in Japanese everyday: I know the language well enough to tell if a translation is accurate, but my reading is still too slow, and being able to get an "Engrish" translation at the click of a button is priceless).
Of course, it's often the case that when something works and starts seeing widespread use, it loses the "AI" moniker; sometimes it even becomes its own field. I guess that has a lot to do with the feeling that "AI" is not making much progress – when in fact it's been thriving all along.
"Whereas smaller computer languages have features designed into them, C++ is unusual in having a whole swathe of functionality discovered, like a tract of 19th century Africa."
Oh I dunno - you could download most QA questioner minds into a Z80...and most spammers into an Intel 4004[^]
Those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it. --- George Santayana (December 16, 1863 – September 26, 1952) Those who fail to clear history are doomed to explain it. --- OriginalGriff (February 24, 1959 – ∞)