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Artificial intelligence cannot produce a Theory of Everything


Stats prof Gary Smith dissects claims at New York Times that an AI theory of everything is the Next Big Thing:

Judea Pearl, a winner of the Turing Award (the “Nobel Prize of computing”), has argued that, “All the impressive achievements of deep learning amount to just curve fitting.” Finding patterns in data may be useful but it is not real intelligence…

Professor Tegmark argued that, “We’re hoping to discover all kinds of new laws of physics. We’re already shown that it can rediscover laws of physics.” If computer algorithms can indeed discover laws of physics, that would be far beyond mere curve fitting. Alas, such prowess remains a long way off, as does Hawking’s prediction of the demise of theoretical physicists.

Pearl is still correct.

The AI Feynman algorithm is impressive but it doesn’t devise any laws of physics. The researchers used each of Feynman’s equations to generate data. The algorithm was then told the variables in the equation and tasked with identifying the form of the mathematical relationship that generated the data. It is curve fitting on steroids, but it is still just curve fitting.

News, “AI is just curve fitting, not finding a theory of everything” at Mind Matters News

Gary Smith concludes, “Computers are much better than humans at curve fitting but still far worse at devising models that help us understand and predict the world.”

Big Tech no like this talk. Tough. They’ll just have to program around it. As soon as we heard Max Tegmark was involved… we switched the basic mode to science fiction.

You may also enjoy these articles on AI by Gary Smith:

Cancer maps—an expensive source of phantom patterns?
Is the money the U.S. government spends on tracking cancer patterns a good investment? There’s a way we can tell.


The decline effect: Why most medical treatments are disappointing. Artificial intelligence is not an answer to this problem, as Walmart may soon discover.

Physicists weren't obsessed with Theories of Everything until they started offloading their work to pure math and pure software. When you work with actual reality, experimenting with engines and flames and valves and capacitors, you tend to be more humble. Actual reality can crush your fingers or burn your face or stop your heart with current. polistra

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