Friday, April 22, 2011

Artificial Intelligence

This is an essay I wrote back when I was in university about artificial intelligence. I decided to put it up in my geek blog. Enjoy! By the way, I later learned about the halting problem which makes my last paragraph impossible to be realized if the program is expected to be right every time.

Artificial Intelligence

Intelligence is the ability to do something without previously knowing how and use the new knowledge on other problems, or rather, to learn without being taught. Someone who is stupid and therefore not intelligent is someone who requires instructions in order to do (apparently) everything, much like a computer. So what is artificial intelligence? How can a computer simulate this process?

Well if this is possible then it would imply the end of programming, since essentially there would only be one program which will learn how to do anything the user wants. So basically an intelligent program has 3 phases: You tell it what you want it to do, it figures out how to do it and finally does it. The program can decide that it cannot do what it was told. However the most intelligent program is that which accepts the most specifications. It can also decide that it does not have the necessary resources to do what it was told. Again, the most intelligent program is the one which does the most things with the resources it has.

Learning requires external information. Therefore the program must be allowed to gather information about the problem and perhaps completed research by other sources. This is best accomplished via the Internet, although elicitation with the user is a must. The most intelligent program is that which makes best use of past knowledge and requiring least new knowledge (the ability to reuse knowledge). Of course if the program does not gather new information and relies too much on past knowledge it will end up being “closed minded” and this is not desirable as it will result in a closed region of knowledge with no new ideas.

Just like a computer is built without knowing what it’s going to be used for, so must be an intelligent program. A truly intelligent program would not be made for specific tasks such as recognising images or playing a game. It should be the most reusable application ever programmed. It should not be simply a part of another program, but be the entire program (except perhaps the interface).

So it seems that artificial intelligence means a program which translates specifications to solutions without the programmer knowing the solution. The key point here is that the programmer doesn’t know the solution (OK, no one in the development process knows it). This facilitates programming since the programmer need not know the solution before writing the program but rather leaves it to the program to find the solution. It’s also great when we as humans still have not found a solution (or an efficient one) to a particular problem.

What may the future hold for AI? As already mentioned, one day there will be a published algorithm for true AI which is able to learn how to solve any solvable problem, given a specification which has a high level of expressiveness. The first to benefit would be the humanoid robots which in turn would benefit humans in a variety of ways, which need not be mentioned. However will this mean the end of all human jobs, skilled and unskilled alike? Probably what will happen is that the developed countries will slow down the development of AI in the market in order to preserve jobs. But it might be possible for undeveloped countries to acquire some intelligent robots (through missionaries for example) which will help in some way or another. Perhaps in the developed world some hard to find professions will be filled in by robots, but I doubt they will be popular. However it can be possible that one day no one will work anymore and communism will take over as financial classes will be eradicated. All work will be done by robots and people will live a leisurely life, receiving provisions and resources equally. I doubt this will be allowed.

One application of AI I would pursue would be that of fabricating assignments. It would accept the specs of the assignment in raw format as given to the student, possibly with the addition of some course notes for reference, and the ID number of the student. The routine would understand the spec and using the ID number will generate a unique assignment with compiled code (if any) and documentation and comments. If I were to manage to realise such a routine, I would charge my fellow class mates to write their assignments, except that I wouldn’t do anything except feed the program the spec and ID number. Since every student will receive a unique assignment there will be no fear of plagiarism and detecting that the assignment was generated would be practically impossible unless the lecturers would obtain a copy of the routine and compare the given work with the generated one. Come to think of it, a uniquely generated id number would be better. The reason why AI makes sense to be used is because of the shear difficulty to find an algorithm which solves the problem.

Another application would be the semantic interpretation of a given code. The program would accept a given piece of code (given that it is accepted by the compiler) and produce a description in simple English what happens when it executes, at a given level of abstraction. Of course this can be extended to the interpretation of a given executable file. If this is possible then viruses and all malware would be easily detected with no need for updates. The other way round would also be nice where given a description in simple English, the program generates annotated code, ready to be compiled.

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