Melanie Mitchell on AI: Intelligence is a Complex Phenomenon

Melanie Mitchell is the Davis Professor of Complexity at the Santa Fe Institute, and Professor of Computer Science at Portland State University. Prof. Mitchell is the author of a number of interesting books such as Complexity: A Guided Tour and Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans. One interesting detail of her academic bio is that Douglas Hofstadter was her Ph.D. supervisor.

During this 90 min interview with Melanie Mitchell, we cover a variety of interesting topics such as: how she started in physics, went into math, and ended up in Computer Science; how Douglas Hofstadter became her Ph.D. supervisor; the biggest issues that humanity is facing today; my predictions of the biggest challenges of the next 100 days of the COVID19 pandemic; how to remain hopeful when it is hard to be optimistic; the problems in defining AI, thinking and human; the Turing Test and Ray Kurzweil’s bet with Mitchell Kapor; the Technological Singularity and its possible timeline; the Fallacy of First Steps and the Collapse of AI; Marvin Minsky’s denial of progress towards AGI; Hofstadter’s fear that intelligence may turn out to be a set of “cheap tricks”; the importance of learning and interacting with the world; the [hard] problem of consciousness; why it is us who need to sort ourselves out and not rely on God or AI; complexity, the future and why living in “Uncertain Times” is an unprecented opportunity.

My favorite quote that I will take away from this conversation with Melanie Mitchell is:

Intelligence is a very complex phenomenon and we should study it as such. It’s not the sum of a bunch of narrow intelligences but something much bigger.

As always you can listen to or download the audio file above or scroll down and watch the video interview in full. To show your support you can write a review on iTunesmake a direct donation or become a patron on Patreon.

P.S. I owe special thanks to Robert Ziman without whom this interview would not have happened.

Who is Melanie Mitchell?

Melanie Mitchell is the Davis Professor of Complexity at the Santa Fe Institute, and Professor of Computer Science (currently on leave) at Portland State University. Her current research focuses on conceptual abstraction, analogy-making, and visual recognition in artificial intelligence systems.

Melanie is the author or editor of six books and numerous scholarly papers in the fields of artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and complex systems. Her book Complexity: A Guided Tour (Oxford University Press) won the 2010 Phi Beta Kappa Science Book Award and was named by Amazon.com as one of the ten best science books of 2009. Her latest book is Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux).

Melanie originated the Santa Fe Institute’s Complexity Explorer platform, which offers online courses and other educational resources related to the field of complex systems. Her online course “Introduction to Complexity” has been taken by over 25,000 students, and is one of Course Central’s “top fifty online courses of all time”.

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