On self driving cars and intelligence

The car is the killer app for AI

Our master fund is fully invested in companies that we believe will drive the development of self driving cars. And self driving cars are the catalyst for the development of general AI. Here is a quote from Baidu COO, Qi Lu, confirming the thesis:

“If you want to truly build digital intelligence to be able to acquire knowledge, make decisions, and adapt to the environment, you need to build autonomous systems. In autonomous systems, the car is the first major commercial application that is going to land.” The quote is from Wired Magazine 8.9.2017.

We define intelligence as the ability to observe the environment and make decisions against an objective. So for example, if you’re lost in Shanghai you figure out your way back to the hotel or even more extreme, if you’re lost in the Amazon you figure out how to survive. The key here is that the situation could be anything and intelligence is defined as the ability to figure out an optimal solution.

Note that solving a math problem or quantum physics problem doesn’t necessarily qualify as intelligence. I would classify that as creativity. Intelligence, or more precisely, general intelligence is when you can solve various problems in various situations with little domain expertise.

Now, why are autonomous systems key to the development of artificial general intelligence. It’s like nature. When we developed as a species we were pretty dumb in the beginning. We floated like octopus in the water and sucked nutrition from water. We had no idea what’s around us, but we survived. Then the Cambrium age came and we developed vision. Vision was key for us to specialize and become better at specific tasks. Specialization allowed species to become good at things and more importantly to learn from error and improve. Vision and error correction are very closely correlated and error correction is key for general intelligence.

In short, general intelligence is developed when things learn to move in the environment and get better at it. This is kind of what Lu is saying and he is only paraphrasing another computer science icon, Rodney Brooks, in his paper “Elephants don’t play chess”. Here is a quote: “Learning from continuous physical interaction with the environment is the best way to develop intelligent systems.”

So here it is. Self driving cars or autonomous cars are a catalyst for the development of general intelligence. We call it the Killer App for AI.

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