The University of Sussex

The myth of AI failure

Blay Whitby

A myth has developed that AI has failed as a research program. Most myths contain some germ of truth but this one is exceptional in that it is more or less completely false. In fact AI is a remarkably successful research program which has delivered not only scientific insight but a great deal of useful technology. One of the main reasons why people assert the failure of AI as a research program is the mistaken view that its main goal is to replicate human intelligence. Such a view is understandable. It is common to misread Turing's 1950 paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence as suggesting that the ultimate goal of AI should be the complete replication of human intelligence. AI researchers have also not done sufficient to make it clear that complete replication of human intelligence is not the ultimate goal of AI. A further source of the failure myth is the need felt by many researchers to distance their approach to AI from other, usually previous, approaches. In many cases a fashionable approach to AI may give itself a new name - ALife would be a good example - and portray previous AI approaches as having failed. In truth there is no failure to be explained. Almost every citizen in the developed world makes use of AI-derived technology every day. The fact that this AI technology is usually hidden in other technologies and works unobtrusively is a measure of just how successful AI has been. AI has also inspired, and continues to inspire, many other disciplines from linguistics to biology through the generation of scientifically useful data and concepts. The scientific work may still be at an early stage but its potential is great and failure myths should not be allowed to impede it.

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