Moved back to Beijing a few weeks ago. Busy with so many things and didn't keep my promise updating my blogs once or twice fortnightly. Sorry:) Now I'm getting back to the normal~ For English version, please scroll down.
但就是这几个礼拜，由于几次实习和工作申请碰壁，我开始考虑大数据和人工智能的价值。各行各业对其趋之若鹜并非空穴来风吧。我于是开始看牛津一个大牛帅锅科学家Nando de Freitas的教学视频，学习了一些基础。看看AI几十年的发展历史就知道，为数不多的科学家在AI两次冰河期里，在别人都放弃希望的日子里依然坚持着（这才是真正的科学精神！），今天都成了AI的领军人物。其中一位是华盛顿大学教授Pedro Domingos。这几天刚好在读他的书《终极算法：机器学习和人工智能如何重塑世界》(The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World)。读了不到四分之一我就已经上瘾了，因为我看到研究人工智能和机器学习（是AI的子领域）的本质是发现信息时代的“大统一理论”，完成爱因斯坦的未竟事业。我觉得人类又一次要去完成探索宇宙终极问题的挑战，而这次不是在物理学，是在认知科学和信息科学。
图1 (Figure 1)
As a quasi-scientist (well, not yet got my "Dr" title officially), I'm writing an article today on my thoughts of humans, machines, and deity based on my understanding of artificial intelligence (AI). It brings a little science fiction vibe at some points. Starting to develop my interest in AI, I'm inspired a lot by reading books on AI these days. Not an expert in AI, so please feel free to correct me. At the end of the article, I will share some links and interesting books on AI.
From being dismissive of AI to highly interested
I was actually not so into AI a few months ago, the same for big data. There are mainly two reasons. One is that entreprises and media are overselling the concept - so much that repels me from it. Another reason is that maybe 80% of academics (sorry that the number is just a random guess by me) are leveraging the term as gimmick for their work rather than really knowing what to do for innovation. I'm not pointing finger to any particular person, so don't take it personal:)
But it was just these few weeks - when I got some obstacles in applying for jobs - that I started to ponder on the value of AI and big data. There must be some reasons why everyone is going crazy for it. I started to learn the basics by watching the online course videos by the Oxford professor Nando de Freitas. Meanwhile, reading the history of AI development, I grew so much awe of the real AI scientists who insisted working on AI and believed in the potential of AI though everyone else gave it up at those toughest times. One of those AI avant-gardes is Petro Domingos, a professor at University of Washington. I just finished reading his book calledThe Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World. I was so absorbed reading it becauseI suddenly realised that the nature of studying AI is to find the Grand Unified Theories (GUTs) in the era of information technology - some super exciting things Einstein brought up but never ended up finishing. Human beings are once again bringing on the challenge questing the ultimate issue of the universe: not in Physics this time, but in Neuroscience and Information Science.
I got so excited!
Are we entering into the digital Grand Unified Theory and getting closer to the ultimiate end of the universe?
The Master Algorithm,self-evidently, is seeking for a universal algorithm that can solve everything.As the author put it:
If it exists, the Master Algorithm can derive all knowledge in the world—past,present, and future—from data. Inventing it would be one of the greatestadvances in the history of science.
Last time when humans were so close to the ultimate theory of the universewas probably the time when Einstein brought up the GUTs. Many scientificcoincidences took place when people from different disciplines communicatedwith each other to find the “Eureka!” That’s where small and specific rules aggregatedinto big general rules. Unfortunately, in Einstein’s lifetime, he didn’t manageto figure that out, nor has any of the scientists so far.
Fast backwards, the first time when humans were so close to the ultimatetheory of the universe was probably when human beings were thinking about how everythingwas created by the God (I’m saying this in a neutral standpoint). To be honest,I think the God (if there were one) created the rules of the universe ratherthan the beings themselves. Human beings are eager to know “whys” after “whys”.But which “why” is the ultimate WHY at all? Humans use deity as theexplanation.
The Master Algorithmreminded me ofthe analogy between cracking the ultimate rules of the universe and peelingonions layer by layer. To put it in a more elegant way as the author did, the setof rules of the universe is like Matryoshka dolls. The complex world can all bedrawn to a few simple beautiful formulas. But how much at all can humans reallyknow about the world? Fourier Transform (FT, well, you don’t have to know whatit is) tells that the world is made up of infinite frequencies (dimensions) of information.In my understanding, that meanstheuniverse encapsulates infinite combinations of possibilities, and we need tohave infinite observations in different aspects. That indicates the INFINITYbetween the ultimate rules of the universe and human beings.No matter howmany more observations we make, the gap between us and the ultimate is still smallinfinity, which is an endless INFINITY. We will always be observing only asmall subset of the reality, be learning and understanding a small subset ofthe rules, and therefore be able to teach machines only a subset of theknowledge learnt by us (as shown by the Figure 1).Maybe the ultimate rules really exist, but that’s never for us todetect them.So I never worry that machines will take over human beings.
The meaning to explore the ultimate rules
From a mundaneperspective, I think the quest for the ultimate theories is a process forsimplification. Without the general theories or the master algorithms, we mighthave to work on similar solutions multiple times targeting each specificproblem. However, the master algorithm allows us to crack multiple (seeminglyirrelevant) problems at the same time, e.g., the Tetris game and the travelsalesman problem. The nature of the mathematical rules residing behind theseproblems is the same. The deduction from an abstract solution to each specificsolution is like applying a word template for different articles.
From a more spiritual perspective, at least my belief in theultimate theories ensures me the hope for the world. If you’ve ever readThe Three-Body Problem, you probably canstill recall the scene when the world is changing irregularly. Sometimes theSun rises three times a day while other times the Sun doesn’t rise for a fewdays. If the world runs without any rule, I would probably live in such a panicway feeling nothing except the meaningless of life. I’d rather still believe inthe existence of ultimate theories, but don’t believe that humans can findthem. Is it still meaningful in this way? I think YES, because that is belief!
《终极算法：机器学习和人工智能如何重塑世界》by Pedro Domingos https://www.amazon.cn/dp/B01N2RMYKL （翻译不好，建议看英文版）
《全息宇宙》 by Michael Talbot
《终极算法》谷歌演讲 by Pedro Domingos
Above is some random thoughts popping up into my mind. Not professional enough. Welcome any comment or discussion with me:))
Recommendation of some good materials:
The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World. By Pedro Domingos.
Holographic Universe. By Michael Talbot
The Master Algorithm, Google Talk. By Pedro Domingos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8J4uefCQMc
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