Intelligence is not Artificial

Why the Singularity is not Coming any Time Soon And Other Meditations on the Post-Human Condition and the Future of Intelligence

by piero scaruffi
Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence | Bibliography and book reviews | My book on consciousness | Contact/feedback/email

(These are excerpts from my book "Intelligence is not Artificial")

Intermezzo: Why Futurists Always Get it Wrong

Because they want to predict the future without first studying the past.

And because they underestimate how important society is to shape the future, as opposed to "exponential" technological progress. It is the eccentric in the garage, thinking of something completely different from the mainstream, who writes the history of the future. No futurist predicted Gutenberg, Columbus, Watt, Mendel, Edison, Marconi, Einstein, Fleming, Turing, Crick, Berners-Lee, Wozniak, Page, Zuckerberg… the scientists and inventors who truly changed the world.


In 1963 John McCarthy founded the Stanford AI Lab (SAIL) with the goal of building a fully intelligent machine within a decade. In 1965 Herbert Simon predicted that "machines will be capable, within twenty years, of doing any work a man can do". In 1967 Marvin Minsky predicted that "within a generation... the problem of creating artificial intelligence will substantially be solved", and anticipated that solving the problem of computer vision would take only a summer. In 1978 Moravec predicted that computers would become as intelligent as human beings in 1998 (but then in 1998 he published the essay "When Will Computer Hardware Match the Human Brain?") I could not find (yet) a single prediction by Kurzweil that turned out to be true, certainly none of those listed in "The Age of Spiritual Machines" (1999), except for those that everybody was already predicting (but this didn't stop an anonymous Wikipedia article from crediting him with a success rate of 86%). One of my favorites is Gartner Group's 2007 prediction that by 2012 a whopping 80% of Internet users would participate in virtual worlds by 2012. The year 2012 came and went, and to this day (2016) the vast majority of Internet users do not even know what a virtual world is.

According to Stewart Brand, Marvin Minsky believed that contemporary philosophers were "shallow and wrong", but of course that could have been because contemporary philosophers proved him (Minsky) shallow and wrong.

Back to the Table of Contents

Purchase "Intelligence is not Artificial"
Back to Cognitive Science | My book on consciousness | My reviews of books | Contact