AIAI . . . oh . . . no . . . nooooooo!!!!!!!

AI 3.0Just when you thought it was safe to forget about Artificial Intelligence, here it comes again. Except this time we're calling it Web 3.0, just to avoid confusion with the old AI moniker. After all, that one didn't turn out so very well, and people would probably just roll their eyes at you if you tried to revive it again now. But it's okay, because this new term has the web-word in it, so we'll just skip right over that outdated Web 2.0 nonsense and get down to some real business here.

Remember expert systems? Somewhere back in the swirling mists of time—in the year nineteen hundred and eighty, say—there was a bit of excitement over tangible products engineered using the somewhat esoteric principles of AI. Expert systems, it was said, would learn by doing, and after the initial training period, they would do stuff on their own. Amazing stuff. They were rule-based systems, and once they learned the rules, they would do stuff with those rules, and we would be amazed. It was, you know, artificially intelligent. And amazing.

I don't remember exactly how long I fooled around with expert systems, and LISP, and whatever else I could get my hands on at the time before I gave up on the idea. I bought Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, and I tried to understand everything Dr. Hofstadter had written. But that was harder still, and eventually I became resigned to the ideas that (1) I wasn't sufficiently intelligent to make use of material written by guys who invent their own calculus, and (2) incessant nosebleeds are my brain's way of telling me to stick with Mad magazine. I won't say I learned nothing from the book, nor do I consider all the hours I spent on doomed programming languages wasted time. Exactly how much sank in is debatable, but something did, and I don't think it did me any harm.

The harm, if it comes, will have more to do with the disillusioning effects of grand ideas before their time. Here it's nearly 2007, and the promise of Artificial Intelligence is once again thrust into our now-cynical consciousness. To be sure, software has come a long way in the last 25 years, and the hardware may actually be fast enough now to make the whole idea of quasi-intelligent machines seem intriguing all over again. Web everything together, and who knows what might sputter to life among the sticky strands.

Maybe nothing will. Maybe we're a little tired of the idea that bandwidth is power. As consumers, we're already yawning at the processor cycle-time wars; there's more to life than computer games, or at least there ought to be. Maybe it's cooler to be alive than it is to live, vicariously, in an e-box.

I'd bet the future is less the Matrix than Soylent Green. Less semantic fuzz than social discovery. Less artificial intelligence than human intelligence. Less automation and more augmentation. Wandering around the Web 2.0 Summit I saw more presentations using 3.0 than I can enunummerate. Some were about more immersive platforms, some desire the singularity, but most just wanted to be new and cool.

So says Ross Mayfield at WebProNews, who apparently doesn't believe in the whole Web 3.0 thing at all. Maybe he's just hungry.

On the other hand, maybe something has already sputtered to life and we just didn't notice. Google's algorithms already confound many; how do they arrive at those page-ranking numbers, really? If 3.0 is all about understanding the data, it seems those who have been knee-deep in it all along would already be halfway there, and perhaps nearer.



  1. Anonymous4:52 AM UTC

    Hehe, nice writing. If you're still interested, or bored of Mad Magazines, you should check out some of the cool A.I. stuff that's going on, like Thaler's creativity machine — his machine, which he patented, invented his next patented idea for him. You might also like my article on the world's first A.I. radioshow host.

    - passing through, thanks for passing my time.

  2. Anonymous6:54 AM UTC

    Interesting! Maybe there's still hope for AI after all.

    Thanks for stopping by.