(AA)AI More than the Sum of Its Parts

  • Ronald J. Brachman


Recent thinking has it that AI, 25 years ago a unified field with a shared vision of creating intelligent machines, has devolved into a loosely connected set of distinct specialty areas with little communication or mutual interest between them. To the extent that this is true, it certainly appears to lessen the value of a centralized AI organization like AAAI and of traditional grand-scale AI conferences. But, I argue, the consequences are actually far worse: because of the very nature of intelligence, the centrifugal force on the field could thwart the very mission that drives it by leaving no place for the study of the interaction and synergy of the many coupled components that individually in isolation are not intelligent but, when working together, yield intelligent behavior. To raise awareness of the need to reintegrate AI, I contemplate the role of systems integration and the value and challenge of architecture. Illustrating some reason for optimism, I briefly outline some promising developments in large projects that are helping to increase the centripetal force on AI. I conclude by discussing how it is critical that the field focus its attention back on its original mission, led by a heavy dose of integrated systems thinking and grand challenges, and why after its first quarter century, AAAI is more essential than ever.