Saturday, November 13, 2010

When Will We Have Artificial Intelligence?

Visit the High Level Logic (HLL) Website
— Home of XPL (eXtensible Process Language)

It's like XML, but you can store source code in it.

When are we going to have AI, one survey asks? It's a question relevant to HLL because so much of the thought behind the HLL design comes from the history of AI research and current technology that has come from AI research. The answer to the question when, with reference to HLL, is now. (Or at least as soon as version 1.0 is ready.) And that's no reason to get worried. As the description of HLL claims, you don't even need a high-powered computer science background to build applications with it – just some (OK, but at least reasonably good would be nice) programming knowledge.

The AI question is actually a bit tricky. It really depends on what you mean by AI. Way back in the cave computer days when I was first introduced to the subject, artificial intelligence research was defined as trying to get computers to do things that humans currently do better. Applying that definition, it seems as though the answer may be never. As soon as computers can do something at least as well or better than humans, it's no longer the subject of AI research. Object oriented programming is an example of something that came from AI research. Now a mainstream programming paradigm, many people don't associate it with AI at all.

The variety of ways of thinking about AI is also why some researchers predict AI won't exist far into the future while others (like me) are much more optimistic. People who answer the question may have something very specific in mind and think it will be a long time before it will become reality. You can also think about all the things computers do now – such as mathematical calculation – and make a case that AI already exists (something humans and computers both do, and computers do well). The great variation in predictions on when AI will come, has to do with both the particular sets of things that guessers think need to be done before “AI exists” and how optimistic or pessimistic they are about doing them; while basic research always looks ahead.

You've probably heard that human intelligence is linked to the fact that we have opposable thumbs and other peculiar physical characteristics like standing upright and walking erect. Researchers recognize that in living creatures, intelligence and the characteristics of their physical bodies are linked, which makes robotics fertile ground for AI. (related article) Not all researchers focus exclusively on human intelligence and capabilities however. Some of the most interesting advances have come from looking for ways to mimic the behavior of other creatures, from insects and snakes to mules. The intelligence of a lower species is still intelligence, and some of the developments that come from mimicking their behavior can be applied in layers when mimicking behavior in higher ones.

Where does HLL actually fit in? Twenty-five years ago, when I was first thinking about the “high level logic” problem, I thought of it as a subject for advanced research. Since then, computer languages have advanced considerably and in ways directly matching the requirements of HLL. Strong networking support is a must, which has come from focus on Internet applications. Relatively recent additions to Java (which I've used to build HLL), such as strong support for generics and reflection have transformed some of the challenging bits into stuff that's just pretty cool.(Once again, application developers are not required to have expertise in these techniques – although it's quite alright if they do.)

To some extent, even the concept has been encroached upon (so to speak). The short descriptions of HLL have called it an “agent system” and I worry at times that it will be perceived as nothing more than an alternative to existing agent systems (which I won't mind so much if it becomes a popular one). The overall HLL concept is the thing that remains new, and while fitting into the current modern software development world well, I still think it has potential as a tool in advanced AI research and application development.

HLL development has been proceeding as an ordinary software development project. With use of modern software technology and twenty-five years of thought behind it, not much experimentation is now required; less than the ordinary amount for development of a complex software system, because even details and how it all fits together have previously been thought about. And all that is why it (version 1.0) will be a powerful, light-weight system that is easy to use.

So, is it AI? When people are using it regularly to build applications, I certainly hope it's thought of as AI just as much as rule-processing or object-oriented programming and all the other things that have come from thoughts on developing AI; and yet, fully accepted and integrated into mainstream applications development. Why not integrate HLL support directly into programming languages?

For most people, thoughts on what AI is continuously focus on the future. With twenty-five years of history, I think I've earned the right to use a tired old cliche to end this note with a response. As far as HLL is concerned, the future is now. (Finally!)

Another view: How Long Till Human-Level AI? What Do the Experts Say?
(AGI = Artificial General Intelligence): “I believe the development of AGIs to be more of a tool and evolutionary problem than simply a funding problem. AGIs will be built upon tools that have been developed from previous tools.”



  1. Mr Roger, congratulations and thanks for developing such an incredible system and I just cant resist myself from exploiting its resources. Actually, I've been trying to develop a neural network based text processor which will try to find an optimum answer from the given text(could be a paragraph or an entire chapter from a book)to the question asked by the user. My question is "can I train/use HLL to work as per my requirement?"

    May I request you to guide me. Your response is highly awaited.
    Thanks a lot.


  2. Sorry, it didnt display my email.
    Anyway here is it :


  3. I don't think anyone can answer your question without getting a bit more specific information. Are you trying to create a totally free-form question and answer machine? Something like a rule-based expert system? Or what?

    HLL doesn't contain any neural network components. Those would at present be one or more "experts" if part of an HLL application.

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