Ambition is Path-Dependent

This is my first post. Actually, it’s copied from something I recently wrote on Facebook, but there is more to say than really fits in a Facebook status message. I hope to expand on this soon with longer (medium-size?) posts.

Marvin Minsky, one of the founders of AI, reflects on the history of the field in this video

He expresses disappointment with the current state and rate of progress, saying “big companies and bad ideas don’t mix very well.”

I don’t share Minsky’s assessment. Minsky was one of the most important and influential people in AI. Arguably, he was too influential at times. But he was undeniably brilliant, so I think it’s worth trying to understand his perspective.

Like any technological discipline, AI has followed a path-dependent trajectory over the last several decades. Improvement has been discontinuous and iterative, with innovations built upon earlier successful ideas. But our ambitions also follow a path-dependent course: what we want to do changes based on what we discover we can do. Perhaps Minsky perceives these changing ambitions as a loss of ambition.

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