Monday, 10 December 2007

Bite Size Dreyfus Part 1

"Bite Size Dreyfus" is a series of notes on the book "What Computers Still Can't Do" by Hubert L. Dreyfus. It was first published in 1972, then updated in 1979 and 1992. It is an amazing book that eloquently conveys a significant number of views that I also hold regarding artificial intelligence.

The reason that I am posting my notes from the book is to help me get my notes on the book done and in order to get my head around the book. I read this book a few months ago, took some rough notes, got overly excited, then read ahead without taking notes and finished the book knowing that I had read something profound, without quite remembering what. So I am aiming to produce a coherent set of notes to identify the key arguments and related work.

I am also aiming with these notes to be able to more succinctly convey my views and the reasons for them. I don't want to have to ask people to read the book in order to understand and if I can't explain it then I don't really know it.

Another reason, perhaps the most important reason for producing these notes is so that I can check that I am heading in the direction that will take me to my vision for artificial intelligence. Lately I have been reading a number of papers and the original views that I had held began to fade as the low level concerns took over. I really want to ensure that I don't repeat work that has been done in the past and that I do work that really contributes to our fundamental knowledge.

This idea of a need for fundamental research is really the core concern of the book.

I found this book in the first few weeks of starting my PhD. I spent a few days going through the complete collection of books on artificial intelligence at my university library. It is surprising that there seemed to be way too many books on the area when I was an undergraduate. Now as a post graduate I wish there were more books, including books that are older and books that are newer.

The really reassuring thing about this book is that a significant number of intuitive views I had are shared by another person, especially a person that is as perceptive, courageous and articulate as Dreyfus is. Yes, I know, get over the hero worship but it it's true.

Dreyfus has been able to take a step back from the field and examine the field as well as the box it is in and the foundation that the box is on. Dreyfus has been courageous enough to provide an analysis of the field and the hype and to do so in a way that a newly minted graduate such as myself can understand.

So without much further ado, I'll begin my notes on this book. These notes will cover the main lines of argument and the usual suspects of who, what, when, why and how. Once these notes are done I intend to produce a strategic and tactical series of posts on how to sway the masses to our point of view. Are you with me?

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