Posted 03 April 2008 - 06:51 AM
I submit that "Artificial Intelligence" is just the name for an academic field. It is a social label first and foremost, used by researchers to classify themselves and others.
Like those from all academic fields, its practitioners are dependent on grant money to survive, and judged by the number of papers they write that are accepted for publication by major journals. Those are the inputs and outputs of the academic game.
Success in the game comes partly from having good ideas, and it comes partly from having the technical expertise to execute them well. But it also depends strongly on marketing, self-promotion; you have to convince others -- article reviewers at journals, funding agencies, and sometimes even the general public -- that your ideas are better, cooler, more interesting.
And what better way to do that then by calling them "Artificial Intelligence?"
An example: What really is machine learning? There is some system which, given inputs, produces outputs; we want to select inputs which minimize some cost function defined over the outputs. That is all. Another group of academics does pretty much the same thing (using more abstract language), and they call what they do "Optimal Control."
Question: Who is more likely to get the newspaper article written about them with the sexy headline, "Smart Computers 'Learn' like Babies:"
1 - the researcher who calls what they do "Machine Learning" and talks about the computer being "intelligent,"
2 - the researcher who calls what they do "Optimal Control" and talks about minimizing objective functions?
This is just one example of a general trend. You succeed in academia by making what you do sound sexy -- and calling what you do "Artificial Intelligence" achieves that.
If it sounds like I'm bashing Artificial Intelligence researchers, I'm not: It's the game that all academics play. And if it sounds like I'm more generally bashing academics, again, I'm not: Much of industry, politics, and essentially every other human endeavor is built on a strong foundation of bullshit.
I'm just pointing it out in this case, because I'd hate for everybody to waste their time philosophizing about what is essentially a brand name.