CL Simplex

Artificial Intelligence: Introduction

Artificial Intelligence: Introduction

Artificial Intelligence is somewhat of a nexus between computing and philosophy. AI is something that means different things to a lot of people. People like journalists unfortunately love to exaggerate and sensationalize, cementing AI firmly in the pantheon of completely misunderstood buzzwords. Let’s talk about what it actually means when someone mentions Artificial Intelligence.

Define: Artificial Intelligence

Computational rationality is an alternative title I really prefer. It isn’t a buzzword, and it somewhat demonstrates a little more clearly what we’re trying to say. A very simple “in other words”: using a computer as effective as possible. AI is simply a grouping of effective methods for using computers to solve difficult to define, open ended, and often evolving problems. These problems can often to boiled down into searches - searches for the best answer given restrictions or changing circumstances.

Artificial Intelligence is Search

Recognizing that search is fundamentally AI is what vaulted Google to fame. Google used a program to build a graph representing the relationships between websites, and their content. The "AI" then traverses that graph in an efficient manner to give visitors the best result given a search phrase. Without going into the actual complexities, one assigns a score to each edge in the graph - the program (the AI) travels along the edges with the highest scores. The "AI" attempts to maximize its score and in theory that should eventually take us to the best result. This is an overview of how artificial intelligence operates.

The Philosophy of AI

What is intelligence? Is it the process, or the result? This is actually important as research has shifted between the two philosophies. Personally, I believe them both to be equally important (you can quote me on that, academia). I also believe that there is an important difference between simulating natural intelligence and what new orders of intelligent processes might look like. It will be completely alien to anything we can possibly hope to understand - probably! We’ll talk about how machines will create things we can no longer understand later.


Much like the later entries in the Terminator movie franchise, hype is a big part of AI news and reporting. Elon Musk’s quote about the threat of AI advances is actually economic in nature. The nature of our society will be increasingly tested and impacted. Bertrand Russel spoke about similar events in his 1952 book “The Impact of Science on Society.” The true impact of AI will be slow and powerful - but it will not involve robotic overlords. Interestingly enough, the hardest problems to solve in AI research are things that humans find very easy to solve. Tasks that were originally believed to be simple like “drive a car” is frankly, hard. l I will discuss this and practical AI in the next part of the series.


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