Friday, 18 March 2011

What it is like to be a bat?

Every now and then I get into conversations (even arguments) with someone and sometimes it gets very hot. For example recently it was on Kashmir and this guy was from US. His arguments were entirely opposed to the views I had and I didn't understand how he can have such views while it looks pretty obvious that my views seem more logical. He told he felt the same. Well somehow we ended our conversation in a very peaceful manner, but the whole thing haunted me for a while. How can people have such diametrically opposite views and still think they are right and their views are logical. After that I came across this seminal paper in an entirely different field: "What it is like to be a bat". This paper is a master piece and it says why it is difficult (or rather impossible) to feel or see others perspective because every individual's consciousness is non-intrusive. In fact it raises some profound yet simple questions by asking similar questions like what it is like to hate coffee, what is like to like chocolate etc. These are impossible to answer unless you experience it. How can you answer the question what it is like to hate coffee when you actually love coffee.

This applies to my conversations with others. Its impossible to see the opposite person's views because "I am not him". Each person is very very unique, they are product of their experiences, memories, emotions etc etc and they all have profound effect on his views on different topics which I may never understand. I think this also applies to religious beliefs, tastes (in my view Aishwarya Rai is the most beautiful person in the world and many might not agree to this), personal preferences etc.

In fact its fun to ask these questions and some new questions which might be unique to you. Can you answer this: What it is like to be Sandeep Reddy?

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

AI Founder Blasts Modern Research

"AI has been brain-dead since the 1970s," said AI guru Marvin Minsky in a recent speech at Boston University. Minsky co-founded the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in 1959 with John McCarthy.

His argument is that researchers are concentrating on useless robots instead of the crucial common sense reasoning research. He commented that only one researcher has committed himself to the colossal task of building a comprehensive common-sense reasoning system, according to Minsky. Douglas Lenat, through his Cyc project, has directed the line-by-line entry of more than 1 million rules into a commonsense knowledge base.

But we cannot blame the researchers as the AI field is vast and miracles cannot happen in seconds. Infact there is much hype of AI, that it will do this, it will do that in few coming years. AI field in interlinked with all kinds of domains like from philosophy to physics and from Computer Science to Cognitive Science, and coordinating is difficult and this needs more interdisciplinary researchers.

Why this title?

Though the title appears a bit odd to some people, it is not at all surprising to those who know Lewis Carroll (who do you think wrote 'Alice in Wonderland'?). He used the two characters to discuss very subtle philosophical issues in a very humourous way. These characters also got more popular as they appeared in Hofstadter's 'Godel, Esher and Bach' book. Most of the postings in this blog will be broadly in Computing, Artificial Intelligence, cognitive Science, philosophy, psychology etc etc.