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Machines Like Us

Machines Like Us interviews: Paul Almond

Saturday, 30 June 2007

MLUYou've developed an advanced model of artificial intelligence that would learn from the ground up, as a child would. Can you describe your system for us?
PA: My current approach, “planning as modeling,” focuses on planning -- how a machine decides what to do -- rather than AI in general. Any AI system will have to model -- to make predictions of what will happen based on its experiences. It will also have to plan -- to use its modeling ability to decide what it should actually do to achieve things. Planning as modeling combines planning and modeling. Modelling is (almost) the only thing that we do and planning is a special case of modeling. The machine’s plans for future behaviour are just predictions of its future behaviour.
People often talk about an intelligent machine having a model or internal representation of itself. The way a machine makes predictions need not differ from that required to model itself. We just treat the modeling of the outside world and the machine itself as the same thing.
We also use what I call “prioritization control outputs” -- special “pseudo-“ outputs which, instead of being sent to the outside world, are sent into the modeling system to control what it is “concentrating on.” This is about how we use a modeling system to make an AI system work -- rather than how we make the modeling system -- but I think it is an important distinction.
MLUSo this system would have to interact with the world in order to learn from experience?
PA: Yes. AI has to be done like this. Minds are just too complicated to design, but we may be able to design systems which can learn to be smarter: making minds emerge like this will be easier than designing them. I’m not really unusual in thinking that.
MLU: Once built, how do you imagine that it would behave? How "advanced" could it become and how might it differ from humans -- considering that it would be capable of faster thinking and would essentially have non-volatile memory.