Why Robot Brains Need Symbols

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Nowadays, the words “artificial intelligence” seem to be on practically everyone’s lips, from Elon Musk to Henry Kissinger. At least a dozen countries have mounted major AI initiatives, and companies like Google and Facebook are locked in a massive battle for talent. Since 2012, virtually all the attention has been on one technique in particular, known as deep learning, a statistical technique that uses sets of of simplified “neurons” to approximate the dynamics inherent in large, complex collections of data. Deep learning has powered advances in everything from speech recognition and computer chess to automatically tagging your photos. To some people, it probably seems like “superintelligence”—machines vastly more intelligent than people—are just around the corner.

The truth is, they are not. Getting a machine to recognize the syllables in your sentence is not the same as it getting to understand the meaning of your sentences. A system like…

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Last modified: December 28, 2018

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