Tuesday, October 03, 2006

To do everything you can

Google has been one of the great things that happened in our life. That's probably every person's fair assessment. Why it is so, however, merits examination.
It is true that google is using good old fashioned artificial intelligence. It was more or less agreed upon in the 1980s that computer algorithms and programs are not sufficient to reproduce something akin to human intelligence. People argued that perhaps we need "embodiment" to realize human intelligence, turning to robotics research, making robots play soccer. So it was in the air that good old fashioned A.I. was something "passé", not meriting further attention.
Then google came into the picture. It made use of the mundane old technology, but it did not stop at midpoint, it went on and on to do everything it could. As a result, it has grown into one of the most useful tools on the internet today.
It is an important intellectual rite of passage to realize that what computer networks can do at today is a far cry from what the human brain can achieve. It is a fallacy to assume that the internet can evolve to have something similar to human intelligence, let alone consciousness. On the other hand, these difficulties in principle should not stop us from doing everything we can today. There are infinitely many possibilities still to be explored and actualized, even in the mundane old technology of algorithms and programs.
Google taught us the power of the mundane, if it is tried real hard.

The Professional Way

"The Professional Way" (the same URL translated into English by the google engine) is a weekly T.V. program broadcast by NHK, Japan's national television. It is a chat show where various "professionals" are invited from miscellaneous walks of life, revealing the secrets of their success and their continued commitment to better the already best. I have been hosting this show since January 2006.
I sometimes wonder what kind of a person I am. I am doing brain science at a corporate lab (Sony Computer Science Laboratories), have a lab in a University (Tokyo Institute of Technology), have written many books, write essays in magazines, have won a literary prize, and am hosting a chat show on T.V.
The other day I had the realization that I am perhaps a "hopeful monster", an anomaly seen from the regular stream, with many strange features, perhaps on the fringe right now, but hoping to be recognized as a genre of its own some day.