An AIer's Lament

  • Jeffrey A. Barnett


It is interesting to note that there is no agreed upon definition of artificial intelligence. Why is this interesting? Because government agencies ask for it, software shops claim to provide it, popular magazines and newspapers publish articles about it, dreamers base their fantasies on it, and pragmatists criticize and denounce it. Such a state of affairs has persisted since Newell, Simon and Shaw wrote their first chess program and proclaimed that in a few years, a computer would be the world champion. Not knowing exactly what we are talking about or expecting is typical of a new field; for example, witness the chaos that centered around program verification of security related aspects of systems a few years ago. The details are too grim to recount in mixed company. However, artificial intelligence has been around for 30 years, so one might wonder why our wheels are still spinning. Below, an attempt is made to answer this question and show why, in a serious sense, artificial intelligence can never demonstrate an outright success within its own discipline. In addition, we will see why the old bromide that "as soon as we understand how to solve a problem, it's no longer artificial intelligence" is necessarily true.