Artificial intelligence

Approaches to artificial intelligence

This is my next article on artificial intelligence. First one was called just Artificial intelligence pt1, but now I am going to talk about different approaches to AI, so it changed name.

Currently there is many approaches that drives AI research. There is no established paradigm of AI research, and researchers disagree  about many issues. There are many questions that still are unanswered. One of those question is how relevant research in neurology and psychology is to research in AI and machine learning. For example there is little in common between biology of birds with aeronautics. So some scientists thinks that it is same in AI, but some also thinks that understanding of how human brain works will help us create better AI. Other questions are:

  • Can intelligent behavior be described using simple, elegant principles (such as logic or optimization)? Or does it necessarily require solving a large number of completely unrelated problems?
  • Can intelligence be reproduced using high-level symbols, similar to words and ideas? Or does it require “sub-symbolic” processing?

Different answers to these questions gives us different approaches.

Cybernetics and brain simulation

In the 1940s and 1950s, a number of researchers explored the connection between neurology, information theory, and cybernetics. Some of them built machines that used electronic networks to exhibit rudimentary intelligence, such as W. Grey Walter’s turtles and the Johns Hopkins Beast. Many of these researchers gathered for meetings of the Teleological Society at Princeton University and the Ratio Club in England. By 1960, this approach was largely abandoned. First problem was that building hardware that simulates neurological processes requires a too many components, and it would he physically hard to connect such large number of neurons as human has. Nowadays some scientist are getting also back to this approach.



When access to digital computers became possible in the middle 1950s, AI research began to explore the possibility that human intelligence could be reduced to symbol manipulation. The research was centered in three institutions: Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford and MIT, and each one developed its own style of research. John Haugeland named these approaches to AI “good old fashioned AI” or “GOFAI”. During the 1960s, symbolic approaches had achieved great success at simulating high-level thinking in small demonstration programs. Approaches based on cybernetics or neural networks were abandoned or pushed into the background. Researchers in the 1960s and the 1970s were convinced that symbolic approaches would eventually succeed in creating a machine with artificial general intelligence and considered this the goal of their field.



By the 1980s progress in symbolic AI seemed to stall and many believed that symbolic systems would never be able to imitate all the processes of human cognition, especially perception, robotics, learning and pattern recognition. A number of researchers began to look into “sub-symbolic” approaches to specific AI problems.

Researchers from the related field of robotics, such as Rodney Brooks, rejected symbolic AI and focused on the basic engineering problems that would allow robots to move and survive. Their work revived the non-symbolic viewpoint of the early cybernetics researchers of the 1950s and reintroduced the use of control theory in AI.

Interest in neural networks and “connectionism” was revived by David Rumelhart and others in the middle 1980s. These and other sub-symbolic approaches, such as fuzzy systems and evolutionary computation, are now studied collectively by the emerging discipline of computational intelligence.

Statistical approach to artificial intelligence

This is my favourite, and one in which I have most experience.

In the 1990s, AI researchers developed sophisticated mathematical tools to solve specific subproblems. These tools are truly scientific, in the sense that their results are both measurable and verifiable, and they have been responsible for many of AI’s recent successes. The shared mathematical language has also permitted a high level of collaboration with more established fields (like mathematics, economics or operations research). Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig describe this movement as nothing less than a “revolution” and “the victory of the neats.” Critics argue that these techniques are too focused on particular problems and have failed to address the long term goal of general intelligence.

Integrating the approaches

An intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions which maximize its chances of success. The simplest intelligent agents are programs that solve specific problems. More complicated agents include human beings and organizations of human beings (such as firms). The paradigm gives researchers license to study isolated problems and find solutions that are both verifiable and useful, without agreeing on one single approach. An agent that solves a specific problem can use any approach that works – some agents are symbolic and logical, some are sub-symbolic neural networks and others may use new approaches.


Your opinion

What do you think which approach for research is the best one? What do you think which one should prevail and why? Please leave a comment and share.

Born in Bratislava, Slovakia, lived in Belgrade, Serbia, now living in Manchester, UK, and visitng the world. Nikola is a great enthusiast of AI, natural language processing, machine learning, web application security, open source, mobile and web technologies. Looking forward to create future. Nikola has done PhD in natural language processing and machine learning at the University of Manchester where he works at the moment.

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