Pedro Domingos on Where Knowledge Comes From

I had the great fortune to interview Pedro Domingos on my podcast, The Knowledge Project.

Not only did he provide one of the clearest definitions of artificial intelligence I’ve ever heard but he spent a consider amount of time explaining the sources of knowledge.

Here are some excerpts I think you’ll enjoy.


Maybe you can, for the sake of our audience, can you give an overview of what is artificial intelligence?

Artificial intelligence or AI for short is the sub-field of computer science that deals with getting computers to do those things that require human intelligence to do as opposed to just routine processing. Things like reasoning, common sense knowledge, understanding language, vision, manipulating things, navigating in the world and learning. These are all subfields of AI and if you add them all together, what you have is an intelligent entity which in this case would be artificial instead of natural.

Normally, we’re used to natural and this kind of begs the question that we had talked about over dinner which is where does knowledge come from?

The knowledge that we human beings have that makes us so intelligent comes from a number of different sources.
The first one which people often don’t realize is just evolution. We actually have a lot of knowledge encoded in our DNA that makes us what we are. That is the result of a very long process of weeding out the things that don’t work and building on the things that do work.
Then, there’s knowledge that just comes from experience. That’s a knowledge that you and I acquire by living in the world and that’s encoded in our neurons.
Then equally important, there’s the knowledge that’s the kind of knowledge that only human beings have which is the knowledge that comes from culture, from talking with other people, from reading books and so on.
These are the sources of knowledge in natural intelligence.
The thing that’s exciting today is that there’s actually a new source of knowledge on the planet and that’s computers. Computers discovering knowledge from data. I think this emergence of computers as a source of knowledge is meant to be every bit as momentous as the previous three were, and also, notice that each one of these sources of knowledge produces far greater quantities of knowledge far faster than all the previous ones. For example, you learn a lot faster from experience than you do from evolution and so on and it’s going to be the same thing with computers. In the not too distant future, the vast majority of the knowledge on earth will be discovered and will be stored in computers.

Later in the interview he goes on to describe the five types of machine learning. Take a listen or purchase a transcript.


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