Intelligence without Robots: A Reply to Brooks

Oren Etzioni

Abstract


In his recent papers, entitled Intelligence without Representation and Intelligence without Reason, Brooks argues for mobile robots as the foundation of AI research. This article argues that even if we seek to investigate complete agents in real-world environments, robotics is neither necessary nor sufficient as a basis for AI research. The article proposes real-world software environments, such as operating systems or databases, as a complementary substrate for intelligent-agent research and considers the relative advantages of software environments as test beds for AI. First, the cost, effort, and expertise necessary to develop and systematically experiment with software artifacts are relatively low. Second, software environments circumvent many thorny but peripheral research issues that are inescapable in physical environments. Brooks's mobile robots tug AI toward a bottom-up focus in which the mechanics of perception and mobility mingle inextricably with or even supersede core AI research. In contrast, the softbots (software robots) I advocate facilitate the study of classical AI problems in real-world (albeit, software) domains. For example, the UNIX softbot under development at the University of Washington has led us to investigate planning with incomplete information, interleaving planning and execution, and a host of related high-level issues.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1609/aimag.v14i4.1065

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