Wednesday, July 6, 2016

On Common Sense

Google’s new artificial intelligence team, based in Europe, will focus on the following areas: machine learning, natural language understanding and computer perception. In other words, they will be teaching computers common sense. And in other other words, they will be teaching computers to be four-year-olds.

Team leader, Emmanuel Mogenet, says in the BBC article that we are on the brink of a new era in computing. But what he says next I find particularly interesting - "A four-year-old child learns about the world through their senses so they know that cows don't fly without being told this. Computers need to understand some obvious things about the world so we want to build a common-sense database."

The sensory system of a child. That’s what we’re going for here. We need to make robots from scratch. That means making a machine intelligence that ‘grows up’ from a baby to a toddler to a child etc. This intelligentity would start with the neurogenesis of the human organism, and develop accordingly. It would have a sensory system akin to ours, and the capacity for ‘emotion’ in the form of a limbic system that would then drive its most basic decision-making practices. It would have an entire body and all of its parts, and they would grow with the life of the thing, this artificial human. Eventually, perhaps this creature will pass along parts of itself, to enter not only the timeframe of ontological development, but phylogenetic as well.

Number two, what does all this have to do with olfaction, if at all? I’m not sure exactly, but I’ll bet that revealing some of the mysteries of the olfactory system would be in concert with this enterprise.

The olfactory system is the limbic system, it is one and the same as the most basic computation undertaken by our non-artificial intelligence (what are we calling this now, human intelligence, natural intelligence, organic, wet, soft intelligence?). Perhaps there is a shortcut to this common sense thing that travels right through olfaction. Because I’ll tell you what, if a robot can smell – and I mean to really smell – then it can think like a human. And then we can sit back and watch as our whole civilization becomes that guy from Dune who floats around all day on anti-gravity sensors because he’s so fat.


BBC News, June 2016

Feb 2016,

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