Why can't the existing machine learning approach bring to us real AI

The last week, I spent a lot of spare time on doing program challenge problem on hackerrank, mainly focus on the artificial intelligence (machine learning) domain. Although the process was quite interesting and rewarding, it also strengthened my doubt about whether the current machine learning approach will bring us true AI in the future.

Here are some reason why I am not optimistic about nowadays’ machine learning approach.

Feature engineering is crucial in machine learning.

Coming up with features is difficult, time-consuming, requires expert knowledge. “Applied machine learning” is basically feature engineering. – Andrew Ng

Feature engineering use the domain knowledge of the data by the programmer, it is actually human intelligence, not artificial intelligence.

In some problems on hackerrank, some features would yield quite good result while some other features may produce very poor result. And combine features sometimes will reduce accuracy of learning algorithm. So you can not rely on improving the algorithm performance by thinking more and more features.

Parameter tuning

Machine learning algorithms normally come up with a lot of parameters, and these parameter can affect the performance of the learning algorithm quite a lot(up to %2 with my experience on the hackerrank problems).

Although parameter tuning can be done using some automatic methods, it actually requires some insight of the data by our human to find the right tuning direction. And parameter tuning is time consuming, and the parameters tunned on one dataset maybe produce poor result on another dataset, which is true most of the time.

Different learning algorithms have large gaps in result

Even with the same features, different machine learning algorithm can produce results which have huge difference. On one problem, only change the classification algorithm will improve the accuracy around 20%.

Although we can use some automated method to do the algorithm selection of learning process, it is still some kind of human intelligence instead of artificial intelligence.

More data normally beats better algorithm

From this blog post, the professor Anand Rajaraman showed some good example that by adding more independent data usually beats fine-tuning algorithm.

In fact, high quality data is another key to successful learning algorithm. Although we want to develop learning algorithm can learn pattern from the data, but normally more data will speak for themselves.

Will deep learning be a major breakthrough in AI?

Nowadays, deep learning is extremely hot. A lot of people seemed quite optimistic about that deep learning will lead us to true artificial intelligence.

Although I think in some sense, deep learning’s distributed representation and automatic feature learning are more useful than the traditional statistic learning approach. I still suspect whether it can bring us true AI in the near future.

Though I believe that human’s memory is in some distributed form, but I don’t think it is of the style deep learning represent it. I don’t believe that the human neuron store the real value of something, and use some so complex algorithm like gradient descent to learn the representation of something.


Essential, all models are wrong, but some are useful – George Box

I think we’re still very far away from true artificial intelligence. Although with more and more data and new methods like deep learning we can do a lot of things more useful using the machine learning approach, it is actually not true intelligence.

We have already experienced two fanaticism period of artificial intelligence , one in 1960s and another 1980s. Now it is like the on going third one. But we should clearly recognize that we still know very little about what is intelligence of human and where it came from. Sometimes, the bigger the expectation, the bigger disappointment.

I think machine learning can still do a lot of useful things for human. Just do not get your hopes too high that machine learning can produce true AI in the near future. The world that robots rule the world will still in the film longer than we think. :)

To bring us true artificial intelligence may require breakthroughs in different fields like neuroscience, philosophy, computer science etc. Even though someone may argue that the airplane is not like a bird, but it can fly, I want to remind them that the aerodynamics which make bird and airplane flying is the same, and we human have already extensive knowledge about that. So it should be the same for artificial intelligence, we can not expected too much when we actually know very little about the knowledge behind intelligence.

m00nlight 16 May 2015
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