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The Holy Grail of Artificial Intelligence

Gary N. Smith wonders whether AI will ever achieve common sense

Gary N. Smith and Robert J. Marks continue their discussion of IBM’s Watson and its grim future in health and medicine. The problem, they say, is that Watson amounts to a real world instance of John Searle’s “Chinese Room”. Computers don’t understand Chinese, English, or numbers for that matter. With reference to many of the leading thinkers in AI research, Gary and Bob consider what it will take for AI to ever achieve something like human thought.

Show Notes

  • 01:00 | John Searle’s “Chinese Room” and understanding numbers
  • 03:00 | Following instructions versus understanding. “Is it safe to walk downstairs backwards with your eyes closed?”
  • 04:20 | IBM Watson’s ineffectiveness in health and medicine
  • 06:45 | What is the crux of Watson’s failure?
  • 08:00 | Chamath Palihapitiya’s brutal verdict on Watson
  • 09:00 | “Artificial Intelligence”, the 2017 marketing word of the year
  • 09:30 | The “algorithm of the gaps”
  • 10:00 | Roger Schank and Douglas Hofstadter seeking human thought
  • 10:30 | Solving narrow problems to make money
  • 11:00 | “Climbing a tree to reach the moon”
  • 11:30 | General intelligence, i.e. common sense, the Holy Grail of AI
  • 12:45 | Bob’s thesis: computers can only ever do algorithmic things
  • 13:30 | Skepticism of Edward Leamer, statistician at UCLA

Additional Resources


The Holy Grail of Artificial Intelligence