16.412 AI, cognitive science and Hofstadter

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Tue Jan 14 2003 - 02:22:49 EST

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 412.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2003 06:59:38 +0000
             From: "Amsler, Robert" <Robert.Amsler@hq.doe.gov>
             Subject: RE: 16.408 a slippery slope

    There is something disturbing about someone cloaking themselves in a
    field's name because of the aura it adds to their work. To me the essence
    of being in a field of work is the effort to take part in a conversation
    going on among its practitioners, to critique their lines of thought, add
    one's own comments on them, and ADVANCE THE FIELD. Hofstadter didn't really
    do that. He admired the aura granted the AI practitioners and adopted their
    banner for his soapbox. It doesn't seem to me that he cared what happened
    to AI, only that he noticed that if he said he was in AI, more people would
    listen to him. Then the winds changed direction and he bailed. Notice the
    complete "outsider" element to his comments. He says "the term" started
    changing. That's a fairly abstract view of a field, especially one someone
    claims to be within. It is more like an observation from outside the field
    that using the label no longer was gaining the right aura for their own
    agenda. And luckily a new "term" was available, cognitive science.

    AI is, was and will be. Cognitive science and AI split apart some time ago
    over the issue of the priority for mimicking human performance. AI aspired
    to the abstract goal of intelligence, regardless of whether it was
    human-like or not. The analogy I've often used is between aeronautics and
    ornithology. Does it matter to one whether the flying craft has feathers or
    not? Depends on what you're interested in. For example, cognitive science
    is rightfully concerned about the fallibility of human memory, AI need not be.

    The fact of AI's commercialization and fall from favor as a commercial term
    does not address its heart at all; any more than the commercial
    applications of genetic engineering address the science of genome research.
    AI hasn't lost anything of its knowledge because the business world hasn't
    made as much cash as it expected to make off the applications it chose to
    extract. It would be like saying that bad accounting practices have
    tarnished the good name of mathematics--and like saying that one used to be
    a mathematician until the recent spate of accounting scandals gave the
    field a bad name.

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