In the history of artificial intelligence, an AI winter is a period of reduced funding and interest in artificial intelligence research. The term was coined by analogy to the idea of a nuclear winter. The field has experienced several hype cycles, followed by disappointment and criticism, followed by funding cuts, followed by renewed interest years or decades later.
The term first appeared in 1984 as the topic of a public debate at the annual meeting of AAAI (then called the "American Association of Artificial Intelligence"). It is a chain reaction that begins with pessimism in the AI community, followed by pessimism in the press, followed by a severe cutback in funding, followed by the end of serious research. At the meeting, Roger Schank and Marvin Minsky—two leading AI researchers who had survived the "winter" of the 1970s—warned the business community that enthusiasm for AI had spiraled out of control in the 1980s and that disappointment would certainly follow. Three years later, the billion-dollar AI industry began to collapse.
Hype is common in many emerging technologies, such as the railway mania or the dot-com bubble. The AI winter was a result of such hype, due to over-inflated promises by developers, unnaturally high expectations from end-users, and extensive promotion in the media . Despite the rise and fall of AI's reputation, it has continued to develop new and successful technologies. AI researcher Rodney Brooks would complain in 2002 that "there's this stupid myth out there that AI has failed, but AI is around you every second of the day." In 2005, Ray Kurzweil agreed: "Many observers still think that the AI winter was the end of the story and that nothing since has come of the AI field. Yet today many thousands of AI applications are deeply embedded in the infrastructure of every industry."
Enthusiasm and optimism about AI has increased since its low point in the early 1990s. Beginning about 2012, interest in artificial intelligence (and especially the sub-field of machine learning) from the research and corporate communities led to a dramatic increase in funding and investment.
Artificial general intelligence (AGI) is the hypothetical intelligence of a machine that has the capacity to understand or learn any intellectual task that a human being can. It is a primary goal of some artificial intelligence research and a common topic in science fiction and futures studies. AGI can also be referred to as strong AI, full AI, or general intelligent action. (Some academic sources reserve the term "strong AI" for machines that can experience consciousness.)
Some authorities emphasize a distinction between strong AI and applied AI (also called narrow AI or weak AI): the use of software to study or accomplish specific problem solving or reasoning tasks. Weak AI, in contrast to strong AI, does not attempt to perform the full range of human cognitive abilities.
As of 2017, over forty organizations were doing research on AGI.
- "Possible explanations for the slow progress of AI research" | 2019-11-25 | 19 Upvotes 15 Comments
The Drexler–Smalley debate on molecular nanotechnology was a public dispute between K. Eric Drexler, the originator of the conceptual basis of molecular nanotechnology, and Richard Smalley, a recipient of the 1996 Nobel prize in Chemistry for the discovery of the nanomaterial buckminsterfullerene. The dispute was about the feasibility of constructing molecular assemblers, which are molecular machines which could robotically assemble molecular materials and devices by manipulating individual atoms or molecules. The concept of molecular assemblers was central to Drexler's conception of molecular nanotechnology, but Smalley argued that fundamental physical principles would prevent them from ever being possible. The two also traded accusations that the other's conception of nanotechnology was harmful to public perception of the field and threatened continued public support for nanotechnology research.
The debate was carried out from 2001 to 2003 through a series of published articles and open letters. It began with a 2001 article by Smalley in Scientific American, which was followed by a rebuttal published by Drexler and coworkers later that year, and two open letters by Drexler in early 2003. The debate was concluded in late 2003 in a "Point–Counterpoint" feature in Chemical & Engineering News in which both parties participated.
The debate has been often cited in the history of nanotechnology due to the fame of its participants and its commentary on both the technical and social aspects of nanotechnology. It has also been widely criticized for its adversarial tone, with Drexler accusing Smalley of publicly misrepresenting his work, and Smalley accusing Drexler of failing to understand basic science, causing commentators to go so far as to characterize the tone of the debate as similar to "a pissing match" and "reminiscent of [a] Saturday Night Live sketch".
- "Drexler–Smalley debate on molecular nanotechnology" | 2015-08-10 | 24 Upvotes 15 Comments
Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology is a 1986 molecular nanotechnology book written by K. Eric Drexler with a foreword by Marvin Minsky. An updated version was released in 2007. The book has been translated into Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, and Chinese.
- "Engines of Creation, by K. Eric Drexler (1986)" | 2019-07-28 | 19 Upvotes 10 Comments
The Google effect, also called digital amnesia, is the tendency to forget information that can be found readily online by using Internet search engines. According to the first study about the Google effect people are less likely to remember certain details they believe will be accessible online. However, the study also claims that people's ability to learn information offline remains the same. This effect may also be seen as a change to what information and what level of detail is considered to be important to remember.
- "Google Effect" | 2013-01-10 | 137 Upvotes 52 Comments
Gray goo (also spelled grey goo) is a hypothetical global catastrophic scenario involving molecular nanotechnology in which out-of-control self-replicating machines consume all biomass on Earth while building more of themselves, a scenario that has been called ecophagy ("eating the environment", more literally "eating the habitation"). The original idea assumed machines were designed to have this capability, while popularizations have assumed that machines might somehow gain this capability by accident.
Self-replicating machines of the macroscopic variety were originally described by mathematician John von Neumann, and are sometimes referred to as von Neumann machines or clanking replicators. The term gray goo was coined by nanotechnology pioneer K. Eric Drexler in his 1986 book Engines of Creation. In 2004 he stated, "I wish I had never used the term 'gray goo'." Engines of Creation mentions "gray goo" in two paragraphs and a note, while the popularized idea of gray goo was first publicized in a mass-circulation magazine, Omni, in November 1986.
The Kardashev scale is a method of measuring a civilization's level of technological advancement based on the amount of energy they are able to use. The measure was proposed by Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev in 1964. The scale has three designated categories:
- A Type I civilization, also called a planetary civilization—can use and store all of the energy available on its planet.
- A Type II civilization, also called a stellar civilization—can use and control energy at the scale of its stellar system.
- A Type III civilization, also called a galactic civilization—can control energy at the scale of its entire host galaxy.
Life extension is the idea of extending the human lifespan, either modestly – through improvements in medicine – or dramatically by increasing the maximum lifespan beyond its generally settled limit of 125 years. The ability to achieve such dramatic changes, however, does not currently exist.
Some researchers in this area, and "life extensionists", "immortalists" or "longevists" (those who wish to achieve longer lives themselves), believe that future breakthroughs in tissue rejuvenation, stem cells, regenerative medicine, molecular repair, gene therapy, pharmaceuticals, and organ replacement (such as with artificial organs or xenotransplantations) will eventually enable humans to have indefinite lifespans (agerasia) through complete rejuvenation to a healthy youthful condition. The ethical ramifications, if life extension becomes a possibility, are debated by bioethicists.
The sale of purported anti-aging products such as supplements and hormone replacement is a lucrative global industry. For example, the industry that promotes the use of hormones as a treatment for consumers to slow or reverse the aging process in the US market generated about $50 billion of revenue a year in 2009. The use of such products has not been proven to be effective or safe.
- "Indefinite lifespan" | 2014-08-16 | 22 Upvotes 8 Comments
This is a list of fictional stories that, when written, were set in the future, but the future they predicted is now present or past. The list excludes works that were alternate histories, which were composed after the dates they depict, alternative futures, as depicted in time travel fiction, as well as any works that make no predictions of the future, such as those focusing solely on the future lives of specific fictional characters, or works which, despite their claimed dates, are contemporary in all but name. Entries referencing the current year may be added if their month and day were not specified or have already occurred.
- "List of stories set in a future now past" | 2019-02-06 | 186 Upvotes 140 Comments
Modafinil, sold under the brand name Provigil among others, is a medication to treat sleepiness due to narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder, or obstructive sleep apnea. While it has seen off-label use as a purported cognitive enhancer, the research on its effectiveness for this use is not conclusive. It is taken by mouth.
Common side effects include headache, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and nausea. Serious side effects may include allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis, Stevens–Johnson syndrome, misuse, and hallucinations. It is unclear if use during pregnancy is safe. The amount of medication used may need to be adjusted in those with kidney or liver problems. It is not recommended in those with an arrhythmia, significant hypertension, or left ventricular hypertrophy. How it works is not entirely clear. One possibility is that it may affect the areas of the brain involved with the sleep cycle.
Modafinil was approved for medical use in the United States in 1998. In the United States it is classified as a schedule IV controlled substance. In the United Kingdom it is a prescription only medication. It is available as a generic medication. In the United Kingdom it costs the NHS about £105.21 a month as of 2018. In the United States the wholesale cost per month is about US$34.20 as of 2018. In 2016, it was the 284th most prescribed medication in the United States, with more than a million prescriptions.
- "Modafinil" | 2010-07-17 | 17 Upvotes 23 Comments