AI researchers are too clever and work too much
Usually, being clever and working a lot are qualities, they are very much desirable for a researcher. This is true for most domains, but not in AI.
Indeed, an AI researcher naturally wants to have results as good as possible. Unfortunately, in the present state of AI, it is difficult to build systems that know how to modify the formulation of the problems they must solve, or to find new knowledge in order to solve them efficiently. It is easier for the AI researcher to do this work himself so that his system will have better results when it uses the improvements that he has made to the formulation of the problem, or to the specific knowledge that he has found with great efforts. For evaluating the quality of an AI system, we must not uniquely take account of its performances, but mainly of the quantity of artificial versus human intelligence that allowed these excellent results.
Let us consider chess programs. They have a remarkable level: 29 of them have an Elo rating higher than 2872, Elo of the world champion, Magnus Carlsen. The authors of these programs have made an extraordinary work, and I admire them very much. However, I admire much less their programs, which are unable to play another game than chess. Intelligence is not a Dirac delta function, extremely successful on a very small domain, and unable to have any other activity. These programs do not even know that they are playing chess: chess rules are programmed, and the system cannot examine them for understanding why it has played a weak move. Clever humans have written the combinatorial programs that generated all the winning positions when there are at most seven pieces on the board. Other clever humans have written the evaluation functions that evaluate the interest of a position. They have also written the combinatorial program developing a huge tree which is used for choosing the move that will be played during the game. Good players, often grandmasters, have worked out the data bases including the best opening sequences of moves.
If the goal is only to have a high-performance program, they are right: I would try the same approach if it was my goal. However, if the goal is to create an intelligent system, the system must be very different: it has to think of the quality of its moves, using the game rules, to find methods for selecting the best moves, to write programs taking into account its analyses, and so on. Even if its performances are not as good as those of the present programs, this system would be interesting because it would be more general and, for me, more intelligent.
Our systems have to become more autonomous, to find new methods rather than only executing a method that we have discovered. If so, they have a potential for improving themselves. For the future development of AI, it is better to devise systems which are perhaps not as good as the systems that we entirely build, but which are able to find by themselves some of the methods used in our best systems. In that way, more efficient systems than our present realizations will perhaps emerge with the passing years.
We, AI researchers, behave as the parents who are doing their children’s homework. They get excellent marks, but the essential goal is missed: the children must become able to solve problems alone.