Monday, November 21, 2005

Our Google Overlord

The past couple of days I have noticed a number of articles that have been posted by people who are beginning to understand what a juggernaut Google is becoming and are worried about the ramifications that might extend from a company potentially having so much power. An example of what I am talking about can be found here. After having read a couple of articles like this I began to think about it in earnest and I have come to the conclusion that this is no joke. Don't get me wrong. I'm not overly concerned about Google taking over the world or anything of that nature – though it is a consideration. What I mean is that it is no joke that the first true AI may emerge from Google.

This became apparent to me upon comparing the functional goals of strong AI and the declared mission statement of Google which is “to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful”. This may sound like a fairly straightforward enough goal but it is deceivingly simple. This is becoming more and more apparent to me as I take in the full scope of what Google will need to do in order to accomplish this goal. In order to fully realize this goal Google will eventually need to digitize all conceivable information. This is tantamount to saying that Google will need to create a digital model of reality that corresponds to reality in much the same way the human mind does, except the human mind is only capable of synthesizing comparably small amounts of information. All of this information, which will consist of every possible proposition, must be weaved into an ontological syntactic and semantic web. This can only be accomplished by an intelligence which is capable of formulating how words and statements relate and which has immediate access to what must become an exponentially increasing database of information.

At this stage in the game if you want to access information from Google you must type in a search query which consists of one or a few choice words. Google can then run its algorithms to determine how the words relate given how thousands of texts that it can search has put those words together in order to present you with the most relevant information. This works well enough for now but it is still woefully inadequate. So obviously the next step is develop a natural language interface which is capable of understanding questions formulated in natural language. This is the recognized goal of a future search engine, and no doubt Google has some of the brightest minds in the world working on it even as I write this.

But this is no simple task. The accomplishment of this would mean nothing short of a machine which was close to being able to pass a Turing test. If the computer is smart enough to understand your natural language query and respond to it intelligently then we would be very close to strong AI indeed. Also, once a machine can respond on this level it will also be intelligent enough to not merely direct you to some given web content, but to actually search all relevant data and respond in natural language with precisely the information you need. I dare say that only this would fully accomplish Google's declared mission.

So you see Google's mission statement is really just a thinly veiled mission to create strong AI which translates into the coming of Singularity. I would not be surprised to see the first steps of natural language interface by 2015.

I for one welcome our Google overlord.

Update: Daniel Poynter of Hyperaware Consciousness has a response to this here.


I thought this was a rather telling quote from a Google employee:

"We are not scanning all those books to be read by people... We are scanning them to be read by an AI."

By Blogger Stephen Gordon, at 21/11/05 13:54  

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

By Blogger Daniel Poynter, at 21/11/05 16:18  

Much of the Internet elite keep their email on Google servers. Even Microsoft seems to be having troubles competing with Google on the search front, although this may change in the near future.

Google is a growing, baby god.

When I get back to my home pc, I'll look in my history for interesting articles about Google's plan for the future. I'll probably write up a response post to yours.

There is reason to be afraid, however, of all the multi-gillion corporations Google seems to be the most angelic. But once it has achieved unprecidented power over world information flow will it, like Anakin, fall to the dark side?

By Blogger Daniel Poynter, at 21/11/05 16:20  

I'm not sure if I agree that a natural language algorithm would necessitate nor constitute "strong AI". Whereas I believe linguistic cognition to be one of several components of intelligence (you can read more about my idea of intelligence here), it is probably the easiest to approximate through programming. Provisions for bad grammar would likely be the hardest part.

But will Google's new "brain" pick up on sarcasm? I don't think it will need to, but word plays, innuendoes and the like are the point where language ceases to be the simple task of parsing subject and predicate, and truly becomes intelligence. Thus, parsing a search query does not require true intelligence.

If I'm not mistaken then AI, as it pertains to technological singularity, must surpass that which man is capable of acheiving alone. Most humans, given the proper resources, would be able to read a question and return a grammatically well-formed response.

Incidentally, good work on the blog. I check the feed daily. Maybe one of these days I can help you pretty it up!

By Blogger nickster, at 21/11/05 23:58  

Dan, I would be very interested in any information you might have about Google. Also, I share your concerns about a single entity haveing so much power, but at least for now I remain optimistic. Hopefully I do not end up regretting my optimism.

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 22/11/05 00:29  

Hey Nick! Glad to hear from you. I may not have made my position on a couple of matters clear so allow me to clarify. I did not mean to imply that a natural language interface would immediately constitute strong AI, and I certainly didn't intend to imply that the kinds of intelligent algorythms required for natural language interface would imitate human intelligence. What I did mean to say was that the kind of intelligence that would be required for a succsesfull natural language interface would lay the foundation for a machine that was capable of passing a Turing test. Though, following Ray Kurzweil, I wouldn't expect to see that level of intelligence till around 2029.
Also when I say strong AI I do not mean, as some do, that the machine will be conscious. It may be; it may not be. No will ever know for sure because of the nature of subjectivity. All that I mean is that the machine will be able to pass a Turing test. And any machine that can truly pass a Turing test will also be intelligent enough to begin augmenting its own programing and structural design in a significant way.

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 22/11/05 00:53  

Rereading your post, I can see your point more clearly. I must have glossed over the part where you mentioned the Turing test. It makes more sense now.

You also mention above in one of your comments that "I hope I do not end up regretting my optimism." Just look at it this way; even if you were pessimistic, I don't think at this point there is much you can do about Google's rise to power. Hey, at least it's Google and not somebody else. I mean, if you're an evil machine trying to enslave me, at least give me a free gig of email.

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