Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagNigel Richards

Man showing tricks with cards

The AI Illusion – State-of-the-Art Chatbots Aren’t What They Seem

GPT-3 is very much like a performance by a good magician

Artificial intelligence is an oxymoron. Despite all the incredible things computers can do, they are still not intelligent in any meaningful sense of the word. Decades ago, AI researchers largely abandoned their quest to build computers that mimic our wondrously flexible human intelligence and instead created algorithms that were useful (i.e., profitable). Despite this understandable detour, some AI enthusiasts market their creations as genuinely intelligent. For example, a few months ago, Blaise Aguera y Arcas, the head of Google’s AI group in Seattle, argued that “statistics do amount to understanding.” As evidence, he cites a few exchanges with Google’s LaMDA chatbot. The examples were impressively coherent but they are still what Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis characterize as “a fluent spouter of bullshit” because computer algorithms…

Robot prints on a typewriter

The Great American Novel Will Not be Written by a Computer

It takes more than statistical genius to understand words and create works of art

I’ve written before about how computer algorithms are like Nigel Richards, the New Zealander who has won multiple French-language Scrabble tournaments even though he does not understand the words he is spelling. Computers can similarly manipulate words in many useful ways — e.g., spellchecking, searching, alphabetizing — without any understanding of the words they are manipulating. To know what words mean, they would have to understand the world we live in. They don’t. One example is their struggles with the Winograd schema challenge — recognizing what it refers to in a sentence. Another example is the inability to answer simple questions like, “Is it safe to walk downstairs backwards if I close my eyes?” A third type of example is the brittleness of language translation programs. Yet another…

Data technology background. Big data visualization. Flow of data. Information code. Background in a matrix style. 4k rendering.

Torturing Data Can Destroy a Career: The Case of Brian Wansink

Wansink wasn’t alone. A surprising number of studies published in highly respected peer-reviewed journals are complete nonsense and could not be replicated with fresh data

Until a few years ago, Brian Wansink (pictured in 2007) was a Professor of Marketing at Cornell and the Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. He authored (or co-authored) more than 200 peer-reviewed papers and wrote two popular books, Mindless Eating and Slim by Design, which have been translated into more than 25 languages. In one of his most famous studies, 54 volunteers were served tomato soup. Half were served from normal bowls and half from “bottomless bowls” which had hidden tubes that imperceptibly refilled the bowls. Those with the bottomless bowls ate, on average, 73 percent more soup but they did not report feeling any fuller than the people who ate from normal bowls. Eating is evidently…