Google’s Go-To AI Guy Sees Phones Getting Much Smarter

If you're living in fear of the robot uprising, Peter Norvig, Google's director of research, has some bad news: artificial intelligence (AI) is already here. On the plus side, Norvig, who teaches AI at Stanford University and is the coauthor ofArtificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, argues that robots are helping us, rather than trying to destroy us. wired sent a human to question him.
How do you introduce AI to your students?
We think of AI as understanding the world and deciding how to make good decisions. Dealing with uncertainty but still being able to make good decisions is what separates AI from the rest of computer science.
So AI isn't all about talking robots?
We try to get away from that part and leave it to philosophers. We tell our students that there are multiple ways of thinking of AI. Do you want to focus on thinking or doing? We want to focus on the actions, because that's what matters. Computer scientist Edgar Dykstra said that the question of whether computers can think is like the question of whether submarines can swim. In English, we say submarines don't swim, but we say aeroplanes do fly. In Russian, they say submarines do swim.
If we don't think of AI as HAL, is it already here?
Behind the scenes, machines are doing so much. Every time you buy something with a credit card, there are AI programs trying to detect whether this is fraud or not. And that just goes on. It's everywhere. In the last 20 years the idea of what AI is seems to have changed. Now it's much more embedded and is everywhere. In the movie 2001, the idea was that AI was one big machine. Now, we think of it more as something that you hold in your hand than something that fills a room. It's embedded everywhere, and it's there not to reason and do everything by itself, but rather to help you do what you want to do.
If that's the case, how useful is the Turing test?
I don't like it that much, in part because I don't care about the philosophy angle. I want to build something useful. We already know how to make humans; I made two of them.
So what's next?
A lot of it is around mobile technology. You've got microphones and cameras out there, so we're interacting with the world in terms of these rich types of data. That data is harder to understand, it's analogue rather than digital.
You'll see better integration in terms of things always being with you: maybe you'll be wearing a Bluetooth headpiece, or you'll have a display in your glasses, and there will be reminders all the time, like, "Hey, this person walking up to you, this is their name, you met him three years ago and this is what you talked about." And you can look like you know what you're saying

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