Townhouse Books

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Mind Children by Hans Moravec

Hans Moravec's book Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence purports to give the reader a glimpse into the future of robotics, explaining how robots work and how they will change in form, function, and ability. Unfortunately the book was written in 1988, and things didn't really pan out the way Moravec thought they would.

Moravec seems to fall into that classic AI fallacy of form equalling equivalence. Just because a automaton looks like a roach doesn't mean that it's the same thing as a roach and it especially doesn't mean that it's as smart as a roach. Just because bug and machine both know how to walk and tend not to bump into each other doesn't mean that the robot is as "smart" as a bug and it definitely doesn't mean that we'll eventually be able to next build a robot thats as smart as a frog, then a snake, then a bird, eventually resulting in a human-equivalent AI.

The thing that is missed is that computer computation is not the same thing as the intelligence that a roach has. We can build a program that can emulate some of the basic abilities of a roach, but we're not able to build something that is as capable as a roach. Will we ever? Moravec definitely thinks so, but I have some serious doubts.

If you get a chance to either pick up this book at the library, give it a read. It's very short and it's interesting as a historical artifact even if we still seem to be 50 years away from anything resembling a real AI.


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  • This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anna, at 7:01 AM  

  • OK, why the focus on roaches? Is the author deliberately trying to creep me out? Does he envision a future where we're overrun by roach robots? Why not build rabbit robots?

    By Anna, at 7:01 AM  

  • Heh. Next up: Brian reviews a book about slimy slug robots.

    By lillygog, at 8:29 AM  

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