Saturday, March 1, 2008
Blogging from AGI-2008 in Memphis
I'm writing this from the First Conference on Artificial General Intelligence (AGI 2008) in Memphis, TN. The conference is a refreshing mix of (1) reviews of the over-promised AI failures of the past; (2) criticism of AI's current narrow focus (game-playing programs, limited natural language processing, search engines); (3) presentations of new projects attempting to achieve general-purpose intelligence; and (4) a nod toward transhumanist / singularitarian speculation.
Highlights so far include a splendid overview of the AGI problem by Ben Goertzel, a clever critique by Joscha Bach of fMRI methods in neuroscience (he showed an infrared image of an internal-combustion engine next to a labeled schematic of the engine -- get it?), and a chilling presentation by Ron Arkin on the increasingly autonomous weaponized robots already being deployed by the U.S. military. Apropos a familiar IS theme, there was even a perceptive comment by an audience member on the value of a dissipative systems approach to studying the emergence of life and intelligence.
The conference, which is being held in the FedEx Institute of Technology, has also reminded me of how much academic research has come to rely on corporate sponsorship. The conference auditorium is called The Zone, and is sponsored by AutoZone. The AutoZone logo is replicated on every seating tier, and the signs outside the entrances read (I kid you not) "The Zone / AutoZone / The Zone, by AutoZone... funding provided by AutoZone".