[ExI] Complex AGI [WAS Watson On Jeopardy]

Richard Loosemore rpwl at lightlink.com
Tue Feb 22 19:10:22 UTC 2011

Kelly Anderson wrote:
> On Fri, Feb 18, 2011 at 10:48 AM, Richard Loosemore <rpwl at lightlink.com> wrote:
>> Kelly Anderson wrote:
>> Well, I am struggling to find positive things to say, because
>> you're tending to make very sweeping statements (e.g. "this is just
>> philosophy" and "this is not science") that some people might interpret
>> as quite insulting.
> I don't mean to be insulting. I am trying to draw out something real,
> useful and substantial from you. I have some degree of faith that you
> have something interesting to say, and I'm trying to get at it.
> I don't think I am confused about what you have said vs what John has
> said. Twenty years on mailing lists has focused my mind fairly well on
> keeping who said what straight. Funny that I've learned to do that
> without any conscious effort... the brain really is amazing.
>> So what have I actually claimed?  What have I been defending?
> YES, YES, YES, that is what I want to know!
>>  Well,
>> what I do say is that IMPLICIT in the papers I have written, there is
>> indeed an approach to AGI (a framework, and a specific model within that
>> framework).  There is no way that I have described an AGI design
>> explictly, in enough detail for it to be evaluated, and I have never
>> claimed that.  Nor have I claimed to have built one yet.  But when pressed
>> by people who want to know more, I do point out that if they understand
>> cognitive psychology in enough detail they will easily be able to add up all
>> the pieces and connect all the dots and see where I am going with the work I
>> am doing.
> Well it's good to know that when you fly the planes into the
> established AI buildings, we will be able to say we should have
> connected the dots. :-)
>> The problem is that, after saying that you read my papers already, you
>> were quite prepared to dismiss all of it as "philosophizing" and "not
>> science".   I tried to explain to you that if you understood the
>> cognitive science and AI and complex systems background from which the
>> work comes, you would be able to see what I meant by there being a
>> theory of AGI implicit in it, and I did try to explain in a little more
>> detail how my work connects to that larger background.  I pointed out
>> the thread that stretches from the cog psych of the 1980s, through
>> McClelland and Rumelhart, through the complex systems movement, to the
>> particular (and rather unusual) approach that I have adopted.
> Referring to a group of other people's work, saying, "read this with
> this other thing in mind", is a little like me saying, if you read
> Wikipedia thinking about some topic, you'll come up with the result.
> Be a little more explicit. A little less vague. That's all I'm asking
> for. I didn't get much of a specific nature about your particular
> approach from your papers.
>> I even pointed out the very, very important fact that my complex systems
>> paper was all about the need for a radically different AGI methodology.
>>  Now, I might well be wrong about my statement that we need to do things in
>> this radically different way, but you could at least realize that I have
>> declared myself to be following that alternate methodology, and therefore
>> understand what I have said about the priority of theory and a particular
>> kind of experiment, over hacking out programs.  It is all there, in the
>> complex systems paper.
> What I hear is you railing against the current state of the art, but
> without suggesting something different in a specific way. You do
> suggest a vague framework generator, which is interesting, but not
> useful in a SCIENTIFIC way. i.e. it does not immediately suggest an
> experiment that I can reproduce.
>> But even after me pointing out that this stuff has a large context that
>> you might not be familiar with, instead of acknowledging that fact, you are
>> still making sweeping condemnations!  This is pretty bad.
> I am roughly familiar with most of the context you give. The only
> sweeping condemnation I have given is that you sweepingly condemn your
> "competition" and that you haven't yet shared any useful results. You
> have admitted the second now, so I see that as progress. It is your
> callous negation of the work of others that I condemn, not your work.
> I don't understand enough about your work to condemn it, and I haven't
> condemned your work, just your approach to everyone else.
>> More generally:
>> I get two types of responses to my work.  One (less common) type of
>> response is from people who understand what I am trying to say well
>> enough that they ask specific, focussed questions about things that are
>> unclear or things they want to challenge.  Those people clear understand
>> that there is a "there" there .... if the papers I wrote were empty
>> philosophising, those people would never be ABLE to send coherent
>> challenges or questions in my direction.  Papers that really are just
>> empty philosophising CANNOT generate that kind of detailed response,
>> because there is nothing coherent enough in the paper for anyone to get
>> a handle on.
> OK. I haven't given any of those types of responses at this time, but
> I give some of my thoughts later in this (longish) email.
>> Then there is the second kind of response.  From these people I get
>> nothing specific, just handwaving or sweeping condemnations.  Nothing
>> that indicates that they really understood what I was trying to say.
> I think I have stated fairly clearly that I haven't understood the
> details of your ideas. You haven't shared enough for me to do that.
> Perhaps I have unfairly blamed you for that. Perhaps if I were to
> spend months digging into your ideas I would come up with something
> solid to refute or agree with.
>> They reflect back my arguments in a weird, horribly distorted form
>> -- so distorted that it has no relationship whatsoever to what I
>> actually said -- and when I try to clarify their misunderstandings
>> they just make more and more distorted statements, often wandering
>> far from the point.  And, above all, this type of response usually
>> involves statements like "Yes, I read it, but you didn't say anything
>> meaningful, so I dismissed it all as empty philosophising".
> Richard, there is nothing *empty* about your philosophy. But as a
> computer scientist I don't see anything concrete, reproducible and
> useful from your papers so far. It isn't a put down to call it
> philosophy when all it is is a general idea about where things should
> go.
>> I always try to explain and respond.  I have put many hours into
>> responding to people who ask questions, and I try very hard to help
>> reduce confusions.  I waste a lot of time that way.  And very often, I
>> do this even as the person at the other end continues to deliver mildly
>> derogatory comments like "this isn't science, this is just speculation"
>> alongside their other questions.
> It must be frustrating. I have a glimpse of where you are going. It
> isn't speculation, and some day it may become science. Today, however,
> in the paper you had me look at, it is not yet presented in a
> scientific manner. That's all I've said, and if you feel that is a
> poor description of what you do, all I can say is that is how your
> paper reads.
>> If you want to know why this stuff comes out of cognitive psychology, by
>> all means read the complex systems paper again, and let me know if you
>> find the argument presented there, for why it HAS to come out of
>> cogntive psychology.  It is there -- it is the crux of the argument.  If you
>> believe it is incorrect, I would be happy to debate the rationale for it.
> Here I assume you are referring to your 2007 paper entitled "Complex
> Systems, Artificial Intelligence and Theoretical Psychology" (I would
> point out that my spending 10 minutes finding what I THINK is the
> right paper is indicative of the kind of useless goose chasing I have
> to go on to have a conversation with you)...
> 8:37PM
> ... Carefully Reading ...
> "It is arguable that intelligent systems must involve some amount of
> complexity, and so the global behavior of AI systems would therefore
> not be expected to have an analytic relation to their constituent
> mechanisms."
> What other kind of relation would a global result have to the
> constituent algorithms? After reading the whole paper, I know what you
> are getting at, but this particular sentence doesn't grok well in an
> abstract.
> "the results were both impressive and quick to arrive."
> Quick results, I like the sound of that. Of course the paper is now
> nearly four years old... have you achieved any quick results that you
> can share?
> "If the only way to solve the problem is to declare the personal
> philosophy and expertise of many AI researchers to be irrelevant at
> best, and obstructive at worst, the problem is unlikely to even be
> acknowledged by the community, let alone addressed."
> i.e. Everyone else is stupid. That's a good way to get people
> interested in your research. I, for one, am trying to get past your
> ego.
> "A complex system is one in which the local interactions between the
> components of the
> system lead to regularities in the overall, global behavior of the
> system that appear to be
> impossible to derive in a rigorous, analytic way from knowledge of the
> local interactions."
> To paraphrase, a complex system is non-deterministic, or semi-random,
> or at least incomprehensible. I suppose that describes the brain to
> some extent, so despite the confrontational definition, I admit that
> you might be onto something here. At least it is a clear definition of
> what you mean by "complex system." It sounds similar to chaos theory
> as well, and perhaps you are thinking in that direction.
> You discuss the "problem space", and then declare that there is only a
> small portion of that space that can be dealt with analytically. Fair
> enough, AND the human brain can only attack a small part of the
> "problem space" which overlaps partially with the part of the space
> that analysis can crack. Think of a Venn Diagram. We obviously need
> more kinds of intelligence to crack all of the problems out there in
> the "problem space". I would point out that Google and Watson are the
> first of a series of problem solvers that may create another circle in
> the Venn diagram, but it is hard to say if this really is the case at
> this point. I suspect that we will eventually see many circles in such
> a Venn diagram.
> I have spoken to my friends for years about Gestalt emergent
> intelligence (as of ant colonies, neural nets, etc.). I believe in
> that. I don't think your global-local disconnect is terribly different
> from the common sense notion that the "whole is greater than the sum
> of its parts" so I accept that.
> Wolfram's "computational irreducibility" comments relate to the idea
> that you can't know the results of running some programs until you
> actually run them. That is, there is no shortcut to the answer. While
> you explain this concept well, I don't see how it applies to AI
> systems. That may be my limitation. However, the only way to see how
> Watson is going to answer a particular question is to ask it. That
> seems to be approximate to computational irreducibility.
> I saw how Wolfram himself described how computational irreducibility
> relates to Life. He explained it well, and in a manner consistent with
> your paper.
> "This seems entirely reasonable—and if true, it would mean that our
> search for systems that exhibit intelligence is a search for systems
> that (a) have a characteristic that we may never be able to define
> precisely, and (b) exhibit a global-local-disconnect between
> intelligence and the local mechanisms that cause it."
> I agree with this statement. I think I understand this statement in a
> deep way. Perhaps even in a similar way as you intend it to be
> understood. It is more of a philosophical statement than a scientific
> one (I don't mean that in a negative way, just a descriptive way, in
> that while you can believe it, it may be impossible to prove). I also
> would add that systems like Watson have both of these characteristics.
> It surprises it's creators every time it plays. In many cases, I think
> they are stupefied as to how Watson does it.
> "In the very worst case we might be forced to do exactly what he was
> obliged to do: large numbers of simulations to discover empirically
> what components need to be put together to make a system intelligent."
> This sounds like the Kurzweil 'reverse engineer the brain' and then
> optimize approach. Thus far, this is one of the more plausible
> methodologies I've heard suggested, and there is a lot of great work
> going on in this direction. Its a little more directed and
> understandible than your search for multiple kinds of intelligences.
> "If, as part of this process, we make gradual progress and finally
> reach the goal of a full, general purpose AI system that functions in
> a completely autonomous way, then the story ends happily."
> I think this is what I said about Watson. To be fair, you do quickly
> counter this statement.
> "This is fairly straightforward. All we need to do is observe that a
> symbol system in which (a) the symbols engage in massive numbers of
> interactions, with (b) extreme nonlinearity everywhere, and (c) with
> symbols being allowed to develop over time, with (d) copious
> interaction with an environment, is a system that possesses all the
> ingredients of complexity listed earlier. On this count, there are
> very strong grounds for suspicion."
> You go on to praise the earlier work in back propagation neural
> networks. I think those are pretty cool too, and that sort of approach
> is inherently more human-like and "complex" than the historical large
> LISP symbol processing programs. The problem (IMHO) historically has
> been that neural networks haven't been commonly realized in hardware
> (this may be changing with FPGAs and such), and that they are
> typically implemented as digital systems instead of analog systems.
> You encourage your reader to "[remain] as agnostic as possible about the
> local mechanisms that might give rise to the global characteristics we
> desire" and "we
> should organize our work so that we can look at the behavior of large
> numbers of different
> approaches in a structured manner." I would suggest that you take this
> more to heart. If one of the local mechanisms is a lexical analyzer of
> text, or a gender analysis, or a neural network weighing the
> importance of the various lower levels of the complex system, all that
> should be good for you. Yet, you dismiss JUST SUCH a system as
> "trivial". Watson is a good test subject for your framework analyzer.
> Yes, it was produced by hand by nearly 100 people over four years, but
> you didn't put any effort into it.
> "But if the Complex Systems Problem is valid, this reliance on
> mathematical tractability would be a mistake, because it restricts the
> scope of the field to a very small part of the pace of possible
> systems. There is simply no reason why the systems that show
> intelligent behavior must necessarily have global behaviors that are
> mathematically tractable (and therefore computationally reducible).
> Rather than confine ourselves to systems that happen to have provable
> global properties, we should take a broad, empirical look at the
> properties of large numbers of systems, without regard to their
> tractability."
> I agree with this statement. That may surprise you. I think that a
> neural network that can be mathematically proven to be equivalent to a
> Bayesian analysis should be replaced with the Bayesian analysis
> (unless the NN can be implemented in hardware, and then there is good
> reason from an efficiency aspect to use that approach).
> "The only way to find this out is to do some real science."
> Here is a statement that I can support 100%. No reservations.
> You eschew the study of neurons directly in part because "we have
> little ability to report subjective events at the millisecond
> timescale."
> While I grant that was mostly true in 2007 when you wrote the paper,
> it is MUCH less true today.
> You then discuss a kind of framework generating system that would use
> something analogous to a genetic algorithm to create (complex)
> frameworks that could then be evaluated for their ability to exhibit
> cognition. The question in genetic terms is what should the fitness
> test be? You don't really answer that. Other than that, this is an
> interesting idea that might be reducible to a concrete approach if
> more details were forthcoming.
> "The way to make it possible is by means of a software development
> environment specifically designed to facilitate the building and
> testing of large numbers of similar, parameterized cognitive systems.
> The author is currently working on such a tool, the details of which
> will be covered in a later paper."
> I assume we are still waiting for this paper. What I can't begin to
> understand is how a researcher would be able to determine if such a
> system was good or bad at the rate of several per day. That seems
> analogous to taking every infant in the hospital, interacting with
> them for two hours, and trying to determine which one would make the
> best theoretical physicist. That part seems hard.
> I am definitely one of the "scruffs" you describe in your conclusion.
> I am not tied to mathematical elegance in any way. I'm more impressed
> with what works. Watson works, and therefore I am impressed by that.
>> But, please, don't read several papers and just say afterward "All I
>> know at this point is that I need to separate the working brain from the
>> storage brain. Congratulations, you have recast the brain as a Von
>> Neumann architecture".   It looks more like I should be saying, if I were
>> less polite, "Congratulations, you just understood the first page of a
>> 700-page cognitive pscychology context that was assumed in those papers".
>>  But won't ;-).
> It is now 10:15 PM. I have spent nearly two hours reading the paper
> you described as being among your best efforts. Much of what is in
> your paper is true. Some is conjecture, and you make it pretty clear
> when it is. The argument that intelligence requires an irreducible
> system is interesting, and possibly mathematically true, even though
> you don't necessarily claim that. Knowing that doesn't seem to help
> much in designing a system, but that could be a lack of imagination
> and/or knowledge on my side. The proposal to develop a framework
> generator is interesting too, and like Einstein's thought experiments
> (riding light beams and so forth) it may lead in a fruitful direction.
> I know enough reading this paper that I am interested in reading the
> next paper promised (if and when it is ever finished).
> All that being said, I stick by what I said earlier. This particular
> paper is more a work of philosophy than science. Please don't be
> offended by that. I have a GREAT deal of respect for philosophy. This
> paper may, in fact, be a great work of philosophy. Remember that the
> meaning of philosophy is a love of thought. It is clear that a lot of
> thought has gone into it. But there is no evidence in the paper other
> than an appeal to common sense (albeit a very vertical kind of common
> sense) that the assertions made therein are correct. There are no
> experiments to be repeated (other than the thought experiments). There
> is no program to run to verify your results (partially because you
> don't claim any yet). There are no algorithms shared. There are
> descriptions of complex systems, but only conjecture that it may be
> important.
> In addition, there is a contempt for the work of others. Now, being a
> big Ayn Rand fan, I can actually admire that kind of individualism,
> but you only get the right to impose that level of self assurance on
> others AFTER your work has produced some results. In the mean time,
> you will have to live with working in the rock quarry. (See The
> Fountainhead - Ayn Rand)
> Richard, you are a good, and perhaps a great philosopher. You may be a
> good or great scientist too, but that is indiscernible from that
> paper.
> I reviewed this twice for tone... hopefully, it isn't too insulting.
> It isn't meant to be.

Alas, time pressure makes it impossible to respond with a line-by-line 

The best I can do, at this point, is to say that when I read your very 
detailed remarks above, I find that you have interpreted the central 
concept that I tried to explain AS IF it was a weak, extremely general 
statement that could have had any number of interpretations, whereas 
other people who have read it have said that they understand it to be a 
specific, focused statement about different classes of systems.

The central thesis is that there are some *known* systems in which it is 
simply not possible to work backward from a desired overall behavior to 
the mechanisms that will generate that behavior.  If someone wanted to 
build a Game-of-Life-like system in which they specified ahead of time 
what kinds of patterns should emerge, there would be no scientific 
approach they could use to achieve their goal.

That is really a very simple idea.  Most people who know about complex 
systems accept that this much is true.

The question is:  how much does this kind of problem carry over to other 
systems that have similar underlying interactions between their 
components?  To answer that we have to understand why it happens in the 
cellular automaton cases, like GoL, but not in the planetary orbits 
case, where Newton was able to successfully work backward from orbital 
behavior to underlying mechanism.  Looking at the characteristics of 
complex systems that tend to put them in that "too difficult to reverse 
engineer" category, we notice that it all seems to do with the fact that 
interactions are profoundly "tangled", in the sense that i tried to 

Then, we switch focus to AI and human intelligence.  Surprise surprise, 
this is one of the very few cases where tangled interactions between 
components are unavoidable.  Where it could well be that the system gets 
its stability by a completely empirical, "arbitrary" balance of tangled 

Now, you (along with many others) can just wave your hands and say "I'm 
optimistic that this won't be a problem".  But my point was that (a) 
there is no way for you to come up with reasons to back up that 
optimism, except your opinion, (b) there is circumstantial evidence that 
this really is a problem, and (c) getting around this problem, if it is 
real, woudl involve some very drastic changes in methodology that are 
not happening, and that many people are resisting in quite dramatic ways.

The problem itself is not "philosophy".  It is simply a property of 
systems we are talking about here.

Richard Loosemore

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