Measuring the intelligence of AI is one of the trickiest but most important questions in the field of computer science. If you cant understand whether the machine youve built is cleverer today than it was yesterday, how do you know youre making progress?
At first glance, this might seem like a non-issue. Obviously AI is getting smarter is one reply. Just look at all the money and talent pouring into the field. Look at the milestones, like beating humans at Go, and the applications that were impossible to solve a decade ago that are commonplace today, like image recognition. How is that not progress?
Another reply is that these achievements arent really a good gauge of intelligence. Beating humans at chess and Go is impressive, yes, but what does it matter if the smartest computer can be out-strategized in general problem-solving by a toddler or a rat?
This is a criticism put forward by AI researcher Franois Chollet, a software engineer at Google and a well-known figure in the machine learning community. Chollet is the creator of Keras, a widely used program for developing neural networks, the backbone of contemporary AI. Hes also written numerous textbooks on machine learning and maintains a popular Twitter feed where he shares his opinions on the field.
In a recent paper titled On the Measure of Intelligence, Chollet also laid out an argument that the AI world needs to refocus on what intelligence is and isnt. If researchers want to make progress toward general artificial intelligence, says Chollet, they need to look past popular benchmarks like video games and board games, and start thinking about the skills that actually make humans clever, like our ability to generalize and adapt.
In an email interview with The Verge, Chollet explained his thoughts on this subject, talking through why he believes current achievements in AI have been misrepresented, how we might measure intelligence in the future, and why scary stories about super intelligent AI (as told by Elon Musk and others) have an unwarranted hold on the publics imagination.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
In your paper, you describe two different conceptions of intelligence that have shaped the field of AI. One presents intelligence as the ability to excel in a wide range of tasks, while the other prioritizes adaptability and generalization, which is the ability for AI to respond to novel challenges. Which framework is a bigger influence right now, and what are the consequences of that?
In the first 30 years of the history of the field, the most influential view was the former: intelligence as a set of static programs and explicit knowledge bases. Right now, the pendulum has swung very far in the opposite direction: the dominant way of conceptualizing intelligence in the AI community is the blank slate or, to use a more relevant metaphor, the freshly-initialized deep neural network. Unfortunately, its a framework thats been going largely unchallenged and even largely unexamined. These questions have a long intellectual history literally decades and I dont see much awareness of this history in the field today, perhaps because most people doing deep learning today joined the field after 2016.
Its never a good thing to have such intellectual monopolies, especially as an answer to poorly understood scientific questions. It restricts the set of questions that get asked. It restricts the space of ideas that people pursue. I think researchers are now starting to wake up to that fact.
In your paper, you also make the case that AI needs a better definition of intelligence in order to improve. Right now, you argue, researchers focus on benchmarking performance in static tests like beating video games and board games. Why do you find this measure of intelligence lacking?
The thing is, once you pick a measure, youre going to take whatever shortcut is available to game it. For instance, if you set chess-playing as your measure of intelligence (which we started doing in the 1970s until the 1990s), youre going to end up with a system that plays chess, and thats it. Theres no reason to assume it will be good for anything else at all. You end up with tree search and minimax, and that doesnt teach you anything about human intelligence. Today, pursuing skill at video games like Dota or StarCraft as a proxy for general intelligence falls into the exact same intellectual trap.
This is perhaps not obvious because, in humans, skill and intelligence are closely related. The human mind can use its general intelligence to acquire task-specific skills. A human that is really good at chess can be assumed to be pretty intelligent because, implicitly, we know they started from zero and had to use their general intelligence to learn to play chess. They werent designed to play chess. So we know they could direct this general intelligence to many other tasks and learn to do these tasks similarly efficiently. Thats what generality is about.
But a machine has no such constraints. A machine can absolutely be designed to play chess. So the inference we do for humans can play chess, therefore must be intelligent breaks down. Our anthropomorphic assumptions no longer apply. General intelligence can generate task-specific skills, but there is no path in reverse, from task-specific skill to generality. At all. So in machines, skill is entirely orthogonal to intelligence. You can achieve arbitrary skills at arbitrary tasks as long as you can sample infinite data about the task (or spend an infinite amount of engineering resources). And that will still not get you one inch closer to general intelligence.
The key insight is that there is no task where achieving high skill is a sign of intelligence. Unless the task is actually a meta-task, that involves acquiring new skills over a broad [range] of previously unknown problems. And thats exactly what I propose as a benchmark of intelligence.
If these current benchmarks dont help us develop AI with more generalized, flexible intelligence, why are they so popular?
Theres no doubt that the effort to beat human champions at specific well-known video games is primarily driven by the press coverage these projects can generate. If the public wasnt interested in these flashy milestones that are so easy to misrepresent as steps toward superhuman general AI, researchers would be doing something else.
I think its a bit sad because research should about answering open scientific questions, not generating PR. If I set out to solve Warcraft III at a superhuman level using deep learning, you can be quite sure that I will get there as long as I have access to sufficient engineering talent and computing power (which is on the order of tens of millions of dollars for a task like this). But once Id have done it, what would I have learned about intelligence or generalization? Well, nothing. At best, Id have developed engineering knowledge about scaling up deep learning. So I dont really see it as scientific research because it doesnt teach us anything we didnt already know. It doesnt answer any open question. If the question was, Can we play X at a superhuman level?, the answer is definitely, Yes, as long as you can generate a sufficiently dense sample of training situations and feed them into a sufficiently expressive deep learning model. Weve known this for some time. (I actually said as much a while before the Dota 2 and StarCraft II AIs reached champion level.)
What do you think the actual achievements of these projects are? To what extent are their results misunderstood or misrepresented?
One stark misrepresentation Im seeing is the argument that these high-skill game-playing systems represent real progress toward AI systems, which can handle the complexity and uncertainty of the real world [as OpenAI claimed in a press release about its Dota 2-playing bot OpenAI Five]. They do not. If they did, it would be an immensely valuable research area, but that is simply not true. Take OpenAI Five, for instance: it wasnt able to handle the complexity of Dota 2 in the first place because it was trained with 16 characters, and it could not generalize to the full game, which has over 100 characters. It was trained over 45,000 years of gameplay then again, note how training data requirements grow combinatorially with task complexity yet, the resulting model proved very brittle: non-champion human players were able to find strategies to reliably beat it in a matter of days after the AI was made available for the public to play against.
If you want to one day become able to handle the complexity and uncertainty of the real world, you have to start asking questions like, what is generalization? How do we measure and maximize generalization in learning systems? And thats entirely orthogonal to throwing 10x more data and compute at a big neural network so that it improves its skill by some small percentage.
So what would be a better measure of intelligence for the field to focus on?
In short, we need to stop evaluating skill at tasks that are known beforehand like chess or Dota or StarCraft and instead start evaluating skill-acquisition ability. This means only using new tasks that are not known to the system beforehand, measuring the prior knowledge about the task that the system starts with, and measuring the sample-efficiency of the system (which is how much data is needed to learn to do the task). The less information (prior knowledge and experience) you require in order to reach a given level of skill, the more intelligent you are. And todays AI systems are really not very intelligent at all.
In addition, I think our measure of intelligence should make human-likeness more explicit because there may be different types of intelligence, and human-like intelligence is what were really talking about, implicitly, when we talk about general intelligence. And that involves trying to understand what prior knowledge humans are born with. Humans learn incredibly efficiently they only require very little experience to acquire new skills but they dont do it from scratch. They leverage innate prior knowledge, besides a lifetime of accumulated skills and knowledge.
[My recent paper] proposes a new benchmark dataset, ARC, which looks a lot like an IQ test. ARC is a set of reasoning tasks, where each task is explained via a small sequence of demonstrations, typically three, and you should learn to accomplish the task from these few demonstrations. ARC takes the position that every task your system is evaluated on should be brand-new and should only involve knowledge of a kind that fits within human innate knowledge. For instance, it should not feature language. Currently, ARC is totally solvable by humans, without any verbal explanations or prior training, but it is completely unapproachable by any AI technique weve tried so far. Thats a big flashing sign that theres something going on there, that were in need of new ideas.
Do you think the AI world can continue to progress by just throwing more computing power at problems? Some have argued that, historically, this has been the most successful approach to improving performance. While others have suggested that were soon going to see diminishing returns if we just follow this path.
This is absolutely true if youre working on a specific task. Throwing more training data and compute power at a vertical task will increase performance on that task. But it will gain you about zero incremental understanding of how to achieve generality in artificial intelligence.
If you have a sufficiently large deep learning model, and you train it on a dense sampling of the input-cross-output space for a task, then it will learn to solve the task, whatever that may be Dota, StarCraft, you name it. Its tremendously valuable. It has almost infinite applications in machine perception problems. The only problem here is that the amount of data you need is a combinatorial function of task complexity, so even slightly complex tasks can become prohibitively expensive.
Take self-driving cars, for instance. Millions upon millions of training situations arent sufficient for an end-to-end deep learning model to learn to safely drive a car. Which is why, first of all, L5 self-driving isnt quite there yet. And second, the most advanced self-driving systems are primarily symbolic models that use deep learning to interface these manually engineered models with sensor data. If deep learning could generalize, wed have had L5 self-driving in 2016, and it would have taken the form of a big neural network.
Lastly, given youre talking about constraints for current AI systems, it seems worth asking about the idea of superintelligence the fear that an extremely powerful AI could cause extreme harm to humanity in the near future. Do you think such fears are legitimate?
No, I dont believe the superintelligence narrative to be well-founded. We have never created an autonomous intelligent system. There is absolutely no sign that we will be able to create one in the foreseeable future. (This isnt where current AI progress is headed.) And we have absolutely no way to speculate what its characteristics may be if we do end up creating one in the far future. To use an analogy, its a bit like asking in the year 1600: Ballistics has been progressing pretty fast! So, what if we had a cannon that could wipe out an entire city. How do we make sure it would only kill the bad guys? Its a rather ill-formed question, and debating it in the absence of any knowledge about the system were talking about amounts, at best, to a philosophical argument.
One thing about these superintelligence fears is that they mask the fact that AI has the potential to be pretty dangerous today. We dont need superintelligence in order for certain AI applications to represent a danger. Ive written about the use of AI to implement algorithmic propaganda systems. Others have written about algorithmic bias, the use of AI in weapons systems, or about AI as a tool of totalitarian control.
Theres a story about the siege of Constantinople in 1453. While the city was fighting off the Ottoman army, its scholars and rulers were debating what the sex of angels might be. Well, the more energy and attention we spend discussing the sex of angels or the value alignment of hypothetical superintelligent AIs, the less we have for dealing with the real and pressing issues that AI technology poses today. Theres a well-known tech leader that likes to depict superintelligent AI as an existential threat to humanity. Well, while these ideas are grabbing headlines, youre not discussing the ethical questions raised by the deployment of insufficiently accurate self-driving systems on our roads that cause crashes and loss of life.
If one accepts these criticisms that there is not currently a technical grounding for these fears why do you think the superintelligence narrative is popular?
Ultimately, I think its a good story, and people are attracted to good stories. Its not a coincidence that it resembles eschatological religious stories because religious stories have evolved and been selected over time to powerfully resonate with people and to spread effectively. For the very same reason, you also find this narrative in science fiction movies and novels. The reason why its used in fiction, the reason why it resembles religious narratives, and the reason why it has been catching on as a way to understand where AI is headed are all the same: its a good story. And people need stories to make sense of the world. Theres far more demand for such stories than demand for understanding the nature of intelligence or understanding what drives technological progress.
- A guide to healthy skepticism of artificial intelligence and coronavirus - Brookings Institution - April 2nd, 2020
- AI vs your career? What artificial intelligence will really do to the future of work - ZDNet - April 2nd, 2020
- Return On Artificial Intelligence: The Challenge And The Opportunity - Forbes - April 2nd, 2020
- Stanford launches an accelerated test of AI to help with Covid-19 care - STAT - April 2nd, 2020
- How Artificial Intelligence Is Helping Fight The COVID-19 Pandemic - Entrepreneur - April 2nd, 2020
- Enterprise Artificial Intelligence Along With Telehealth And Teleconferences Can Help In Fighting COVID-19 - Entrepreneur - April 2nd, 2020
- AI (Artificial Intelligence) Companies That Are Combating The COVID-19 Pandemic - Forbes - April 2nd, 2020
- How Artificial Intelligence is Going to Make Your Analytics Better Than Ever - Security Magazine - April 2nd, 2020
- STAT's guide to how hospitals are using AI to fight Covid-19 - STAT - April 2nd, 2020
- 6 Visions of How Artificial Intelligence will Change Architecture - ArchDaily - April 2nd, 2020
- The race problem with AI: Machines are learning to be racist' - Metro.co.uk - April 2nd, 2020
- Artificial Intelligence in Retail Market Projected to Grow with a CAGR of 35.9% Over the Forecast Period, 2019-2025 - ResearchAndMarkets.com - Yahoo... - April 2nd, 2020
- Google and the Oxford Internet Institute explain artificial intelligence basics with the A-Z of AI - VentureBeat - April 2nd, 2020
- AiThority Interview with Seth Siegel, AI Consulting at Infosys - AiThority - April 2nd, 2020
- Artificial Intelligence turns a persons thoughts into text - Times of India - April 2nd, 2020
- The Limitations of Artificial Intelligence in Businesses - AZoRobotics - April 2nd, 2020
- VA Looking to Expand Usage of Artificial Intelligence Data - GovernmentCIO Media - April 2nd, 2020
- New blood test study uses artificial intelligence to identify cancer. But its not ready for patients yet. - Cancer Research UK - Science Blog - April 2nd, 2020
- artificial intelligence | Definition, Examples, and ... - March 28th, 2020
- What is Artificial Intelligence? How Does AI Work? | Built In - March 28th, 2020
- Benefits & Risks of Artificial Intelligence - Future of ... - March 28th, 2020
- Global Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare Market - Premium Insight, Competitive News Feed Analysis, Company Usability Profiles, Market Sizing &... - March 28th, 2020
- The Global Artificial Intelligence in Aviation Market is expected to grow from USD 214.36 Million in 2018 to USD 1,824.46 Million by the end of 2025... - March 28th, 2020
- Is artificial intelligence the answer to disease prevention? - The Burn-In - March 28th, 2020
- Why transparency is key to promoting trust in artificial intelligence - IT PRO - March 28th, 2020
- Coronavirus: Spain to use artificial intelligence to automate testing - ComputerWeekly.com - March 28th, 2020
- Bridging the gaps: joining human and artificial intelligence | Technology - Business Chief Canada - March 28th, 2020
- DIAGNOS Will Utilize its Artificial Intelligence Medical Platform FLAIRE in Response to the US White House - Call to Action to Analyse and Transform... - March 26th, 2020
- LiveMD Global Telehealth Platform launches artificial intelligence tracking and triaging tools to help combat COVID-19 (CoronaVirus) Pandemic -... - March 26th, 2020
- New Research from Newark Reveals Strong Adoption of Artificial Intelligence within the Internet of Things Ecosystem - Embedded Computing Design - March 26th, 2020
- AI vs COVID-19: Here are the AI tools and services fighting coronavirus - AI News - March 26th, 2020
- Stanford virtual conference to focus on COVID19 and artificial intelligence | Stanford News - Stanford University News - March 26th, 2020
- Artificial Intelligence in the energy sector: opportunities and challenges - WhaTech - March 26th, 2020
- 31 Companies, Products and People making Artificial Intelligence a Reality in 2020 - PR Web - March 26th, 2020
- KT zu Guttenberg, Artificial Intelligence and You - theTrumpet.com - March 26th, 2020
- BrainChip and Socionext Provide a New Low-Power Artificial Intelligence Platform for AI Edge Applications - Design and Reuse - March 26th, 2020
- Artificial Intelligence Chipsets Market report reviews overview with demographic data and industry growth trends by 2025 - WhaTech Technology and... - March 26th, 2020
- Richmond-based Blue Heron Capital invests in company that uses artificial intelligence to improve lung disease monitoring - Richmond.com - March 26th, 2020
- Artificial Intelligence is Becoming the Future of Investment Platforms - EnterpriseTalk - March 19th, 2020
- Is Your Company Using Artificial Intelligence To Transform An Industry? Nominations For The Forbes 2020 AI 50 List Are Now Open - Forbes - March 19th, 2020
- On the Role of Artificial Intelligence in Genomics to Enhance Precisio | PGPM - Dove Medical Press - March 19th, 2020
- Artificial intelligence myths: Reality check - Livemint - March 19th, 2020
- Battery Researchers Look to Artificial Intelligence to Slash Recharging Times - Greentech Media News - March 19th, 2020
- The Army Will Soon Be Able to Command Robot Tanks With Artificial Intelligence - The National Interest - March 19th, 2020
- Canon Medical's 3T MR System Receives FDA Clearance for Artificial Intelligence-Based Image Reconstruction Technology - BioSpace - March 19th, 2020
- Coronavirus: How Artificial Intelligence, Data Science And Technology Is Used To Fight The Pandemic - Forbes - March 19th, 2020
- Artificial intelligence: The new power dynamic of today - Daily Sabah - March 19th, 2020
- Rethinking Financial Services with Artificial Intelligence Tools - The Financial Brand - March 19th, 2020
- Artificial intelligence recruited to find clues about Covid-19 - The Star Online - March 19th, 2020
- IIT-M to reskill women in artificial intelligence - Campus Varta - March 19th, 2020
- San Diego-Based Company takes Digital Marketing to the next Level by Launching the First Artificial Intelligence Marketing Agency in the United States... - March 19th, 2020
- An Unexpected Ally in the War With Bacteria - The Atlantic - March 19th, 2020
- Compliance For A Digital World: BSA/AML The New ABC's: Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain And How Each Complements The Other - JD Supra - March 19th, 2020
- The next step in digital transformation: is Artificial Intelligence production-ready for green sand foundries? - Foundry-Planet.com - March 19th, 2020
- Insights into the North America Artificial Intelligence in Fashion Market to 2027 - Drivers, Restraints, Opportunities and Trends -... - March 19th, 2020
- Artificial Intelligence by CWI and Amsterdam UMC proposes the best radiation treatment plans in clinical practice for the first time - Centrum... - March 19th, 2020
- H2O.ai Named to the 2020 CB Insights AI 100 List of Most Innovative Artificial Intelligence Startups - Yahoo Finance - March 4th, 2020
- 'There's No Story That Stays Stable for Too Long.' How Artists Are Using Artificial Intelligence to Confront Modern Anxieties - TIME - March 4th, 2020
- Minister declares creation of artificial intelligence centres in Poland - The First News - March 4th, 2020
- Dont forget to consider GDPR when using artificial intelligence in the workplace - ComputerWeekly.com - March 4th, 2020
- Iktos and SRI International Announce Collaboration to Combine Artificial Intelligence and Novel Automated Discovery Platform for Accelerated... - March 4th, 2020
- Why we need to adapt existing EU laws to Artificial Intelligence - European Public Health Alliance - March 4th, 2020
- How a Portland nonprofit is using artificial intelligence to help save whales, giraffes, zebras - Seattle Times - March 4th, 2020
- Artificial Intelligence Infused with Big Data Creating a Tech-driven World - EnterpriseTalk - March 4th, 2020
- Gaming with Artificial Intelligence Technology in 2020 - ReadWrite - March 4th, 2020
- Global Artificial Intelligence-as-a-Service (AIaaS) Market 2020-2024 | Growing Adoption of Cloud Based Solutions to Boost Market Growth | Technavio -... - March 4th, 2020
- WorldMarkets Continues With the Success of Its Trading Artificial Intelligence - Live Bitcoin News - March 4th, 2020
- Why Artificial Intelligence Will Never Beat the Stock Market - Traders Magazine - March 4th, 2020
- Why Neuro-Symbolic Artificial Intelligence Is The AI Of The Future - Digital Trends - January 5th, 2020
- Welcome to the roaring 2020s, the artificial intelligence decade - GreenBiz - January 5th, 2020
- Top five projections in Artificial Intelligence for 2020 - Economic Times - January 5th, 2020
- A reality check on artificial intelligence: Can it match the hype? - PhillyVoice.com - January 5th, 2020
- Can medical artificial intelligence live up to the hype? - Los Angeles Times - January 5th, 2020
- Illinois regulates artificial intelligence like HireVues used to analyze online job Interviews - Vox.com - January 5th, 2020
- How This Cofounder Created An Artificial Intelligence Styling Company To Help Consumers Shop - Forbes - January 5th, 2020
- The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Takes on Artificial Intelligence - JD Supra - January 5th, 2020
- Baidu looks to work with Indian institutions on AI - BusinessLine - January 5th, 2020
- Top Movies Of 2019 That Depicted Artificial Intelligence (AI) - Analytics India Magazine - January 5th, 2020
- Shocking ways AI technology will revolutionise every day industries in YOUR lifetime - Express.co.uk - January 5th, 2020
- Artificial intelligence takes scam to a whole new level - The Jackson Sun - January 5th, 2020