Letter #7 - In which we’re afraid of writing about a million monkeys training a million neural networks.
“It’s not the fear of writing that blocks people, it’s fear of not writing well; something quite different.”
And, of course, this applies to most creative endeavors. We’re so paralyzed by the fear of others judging our work that we stop doing anything remotely risky and/or interesting. Even Seth Godin, in his recently launched podcast, dedicated an entire episode to this misterious ailment plaguing creatives - my take from it was that in order to do great work, you need to be ready to do crappy work first, same as with Scott’s article twelve years ago.
Me and my monkey
Drove in search of the sun
Such a great album Escapology was. I really enjoyed most of its songs, but this one stuck with me the most. Maybe it’s because most people in my bubble don’t seem to know this song (never had an official video). Or maybe it’s because of that whole western epic gunslinging vibe it so exudes. In any case, it’s a great song and you should listen to it. Then just bite the bullet and listen to the whole album - Handsome Man is particularly nice, and so is Sexed Up.
Of course, classical human-imitative AI problems remain of great interest as well. However, the current focus on doing AI research via the gathering of data, the deployment of “deep learning” infrastructure, and the demonstration of systems that mimic certain narrowly-defined human skills — with little in the way of emerging explanatory principles — tends to deflect attention from major open problems in classical AI. These problems include the need to bring meaning and reasoning into systems that perform natural language processing, the need to infer and represent causality, the need to develop computationally-tractable representations of uncertainty and the need to develop systems that formulate and pursue long-term goals. These are classical goals in human-imitative AI, but in the current hubbub over the “AI revolution”, it is easy to forget that they are not yet solved.
Agreed, we’re currently so focused on having computers perfect a narrow set of skills, while at the same time ignoring some big problems we could be fixing right now. And we cover it all with this mystical shroud that works so well for getting investors’ money and does so little for helping the general public actually understand what’s going on.
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