Aug 20Liked by Gary Marcus

We are not even on the right road to achieve AGI. See https://thereader.mitpress.mit.edu/ai-insight-problems-quirks-human-intelligence/ and the book that is referenced there.

Let's take a look at a slightly deeper level. It is not so much about what the models seem to get right and seem to get wrong, but the kinds of intelligence processes that are missing from the current approach to AI. General AI is not about how many problems can be solved, it is about the types of problems that are required to achieve general intelligence.

All of the current approaches to AI work by adjusting a model's parameters. Where does that model come from? Every breakthrough in AI comes from some human who figures out a new way to build a model. Intelligence needs more than adjusting parameters.

The model constrains completely the kind of "thoughts" (meant loosely), as represented by the parameters, that a model can even entertain. Anything else is "unthinkable."

There are whole classes of problems, often called insight problems, that are not even being considered here and certainly cannot be accomplished by even the current crop of GenAI models. These problems are solved when the solver comes up with a formerly unthinkable solution. Some humans are good at these problems, but computers, so far, not so much.

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Aug 20·edited Aug 20Liked by Gary Marcus

The right phrase for what we are now experiencing in societal discussions on AI is 'fever'.

The fever makes people convinced of things like 'AGI around the corner'. And people's existing convictions steer their logic and observations much more than the other way around. We could say that society has an AI-infection of the conviction-engine. We do not have a proper medication against this fever, just as we do not have a proper medicine against QAnon and such. Hence, your several valid observations and reasonings have little effect. Facts are pretty much useless. Logic as well.

We are talking a lot about what AI is or is not and what it might be able to do. But maybe we should be talking more about the human side and how easily human intelligence/society can get a fever like this.

I am glad that an insider like Shane Legg feeds the fever right now as my biggest fear is that the fever will break before I will give my presentation at EACBPM in London on 10 October and my presentation will be worthless as a result...

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We work for an assessment organisation and have been surprised by the number of people claiming that exams designed for humans are an appropriate benchmark for AI. They're not, and that's not us moving the goalposts. Assessment theory 101 says that when a human takes a test, what matters is not the test score but the inferences that the end user can make about those test scores. That's why human test scores that have been achieved by cheating are not valid. So if we do want to be consistent and apply the same standard to AI as to humans and not to move the goalposts - then we need to know HOW the AIs achieve their results. In some cases we don't know - and therefore can't make the inferences we would with a human. In some cases there is a strong suspicion they are cheating - and in those cases we can infer that we can't make any useful inferences!

See point 3 here https://substack.nomoremarking.com/p/if-we-are-setting-assessments-that-a-robot-can-complete-what-does-that-say-about-our-assessments-cbc1871f502

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The GPT-5 hype regarding AGI is becoming fantastical. It seems that progress is more dependent on humans being trained to not scratch their ears, and to accept GPT output as gospel - no further verification required. https://www.linkedin.com/posts/joergstorm_chatgpt-5-ugcPost-7096046781926387712-Ecl4

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Great article. In my opinion, if we are counting on generative AI experts to solve AGI, we can forget about it. It will never happen.

AGI will be considered solved when an intelligent robot can walk into an unfamiliar kitchen and fix an ordinary breakfast. It doesn't have to play chess, GO or write a PhD thesis. Heck, I'd be impressed to tears if mainstream AI practitioners suddenly achieved the generalized intelligence of a honeybee.

But this is not to say AGI can't be solved soon. One little breakthrough in generalized perception is all it will take to crack AGI in my opinion. It can happen at any time. And, again, it doesn't have to be at human level.

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Aug 20·edited Aug 20

I agree, Gary, that Legg 2023 lowers the bar. But I want to make a comment about one of your tasks, film comprehension. It is difficult, and I'm not sure that one can appreciate the difficulty unless one has done it many times, which I have.

I note, in the first place, that it is not unusual for professional film reviewers to make generally small errors of either omission or commission in their published reviews. They miss something that's relevant to their review or they assert something that didn't happen (hallucination?). It's not frequent, nor even common, but it's not unusual either. Further, online plot summaries – I'm most familiar with those in Wikipedia – are often faulty in one way or another. It is not easy to remember what happened and then to organize those memories into a coherent summary.

As an exercise, I wrote a blog post about those tasks where I used Spielberg's Jaws as an example: Operationalizing two tasks in Gary Marcus’s AGI challenge, href="https://new-savanna.blogspot.com/2022/06/operationalizing-two-tasks-in-gary.html.

Beyond that, there is the task of providing an interpretation of a film. One of the first things I did once I started playing around with ChatGPT was ask it to provide a Girardian interpretation of Jaws: Conversing with ChatGPT about Jaws, Mimetic Desire, and Sacrifice, https://3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2022/12/conversing-with-chatgpt-about-jaws-mimetic-desire-and-sacrifice.html. Why did I choose that film? Because, having already done it myself I knew, 1) that it was a doable task and, 2) I knew that were was plenty of online material about the film, including good summary information. This is important because ChatGPT cannot actually watch the film. It has to work from written material about it. ChatGPT did a serviceable, but hardly superior, job.

At the end of that article I pointed out the difference between what I had done in writing my article and what ChatGPT had to do in response to my prompting. The BIG thing is that I supplied ChatGPT with both the text/film to be examined and the interpretive strategy. That's half the game there, if not more, lots more. Here's the final section of my essay:

What’s This Tell us about the Relative Capabilities of Humans and Computers?

In an exact way? Very little to nothing. This isn’t a question we know how to address with exactitude. I’m afraid the best I can do is to offer a sophisticated, but (merely) qualitative, judgment.

I was impressed with ChatGPT’s capabilities. Interacting with it was fun, so much fun that at times I was giggling and laughing out loud. But whether or not this is a harbinger of the much-touted Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), much less a warning of impending doom at the hands of an All-Knowing, All-Powerful Superintelligence – are you kidding? Nothing like that, nothing at all. A useful assistant for a variety of tasks, I can see that, and relatively soon. Maybe even a bit more than an assistant. But that’s as far as I can see.

We can compare what ChatGPT did in response to my prompting with what I did unprompted, freely and of my own volition. There’s nothing in its replies that approaches my article, Shark City Sacrifice, nor the various blog posts I wrote about the film. That’s important. I was neither expecting, much less hoping, that ChatGPT would act like a full-on AGI. No, I have something else in mind.

What’s got my attention is what I had to do to write the article. In the first place I had to watch the film and make sense of it. As I’ve already indicated, have no artificial system with the required capabilities, visual, auditory, and cognitive. I watched the film several times in order to be sure of the details. I also consulted scripts I found on the internet. I also watched Jaws 2 more than once. Why did I do that? There’s curiosity and general principle. But there’s also the fact that the Wikipedia article for Jaws asserted that none of the three sequels were as good as the original. I had to watch the others to see for myself – though I was unable to finish watching either of that last two.

At this point I was on the prowl, though I hadn’t yet decided to write anything.

I now asked myself why the original was so much better than the first sequel, which was at least watchable. I came up with two things: 1) the original film was well-organized and tight while the sequel sprawled, and 2) Quint, there was no character in the sequel comparable to Quint.

Why did Quint die? Oh, I know what happened in the film; that’s not what I was asking. The question was an aesthetic one. As long as the shark was killed the town would be saved. That necessity did not entail the Quint’s death, nor anyone else’s. If Quint hadn’t died, how would the ending have felt? What if it had been Brody or Hooper?

It was while thinking about such questions that it hit me: sacrifice! Girard! How is it that Girard’s ideas came to me. I wasn’t looking for them, not in any direct sense. I was just asking counter-factual questions about the film.


Once Girard was on my mind I smelled blood, that is, the possibility of writing an interesting article. I started reading, making notes, and corresponding with my friend, David Porush, who knows Girard’s thinking much better than I do. Can I make a nice tight article? That’s what I was trying to figure out. It was only after I’d made some preliminary posts, drafted some text, and run it by David that I decided to go for it. The article turned out well enough that I decided to publish it. And so I did.

It’s one thing to figure out whether or not such and such a text/film exhibits such and such pattern when you are given the text and the pattern. That’s what ChatGPT did. Since I had already made the connection between Girard and Jaws it didn’t have to do that. I was just prompting ChatGPT to verify the connection, which it did (albeit in a weak way). That’s the kind of task we set for high school students and lower division college students.

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Aug 20·edited Aug 20

Hi Gary, lol, love your points, voice of reason!

Here's one thing that humans (and other animals, even worms) do, that any "AGI" based on even more gobs of data has a snowball's chance in hell of doing: deal with the world directly, ie without measured data, coded rules or goals.

Specifically about data - "data is dead". In nature there is no such thing as data, our brains don't use a decimal or binary or some other number system unless learned, etc etc. (cats for sure don't, unless they are not telling us!).

It's the same Chicken Little approach, combined with magical thinking - the sky will be falling anytime (but not just yet - ask me in a few years, I'll say the same thing again!) - Singularity, Bitcoin, Industrial Internet 4.0... and, if I keep saying it over and over it will become true (eg Elon Musk and SDCs).

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Aug 21·edited Aug 21

AGI is a term that causes far more trouble than the idea warrants. We came up with "intelligence" to describe, for the most part, human beings. Sometimes we think of it as one coherent phenomenon, other times we describe it in terms of a huge bundle of descriptions and abilities of, again, mostly humans. Then we take "intelligence" and start using it to describe properties of certain machines. Then we refer to a hypothetical machine that can do most or all of the huge bundle of stuff we associate with human intelligence, and call this "AGI". Oh, but of course "AGI" doesn't need to be a perfect reproduction of human intelligence! We know we're not getting that. It just needs to be able to do, for the most part, the big bundle of human stuff that we have a really really hard time defining precisely but that we think we're talking about when we say "intelligence".

And so then we play this ridiculous game, where new "AI" (of the non-general form) is able to perform some tasks typically associated with human intelligence, and so that's a sign that we're on the road to AGI. Except it doesn't achieve the tasks the way we do, but that's OK because that's not required. We only need the task to be accomplished.

And so new advances get treated as evidence that we're getting closer to this type of human-like machine intelligence called "AGI", but there's no requirement that these advance be similar in process to what humans do. Although if it so happens that we see some similarities, more evidence that we're getting closer to AGI!

Am I being unfair? What I described above is silly, but lots of very smart people take it very seriously.

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How do you have such confident assertions on what can and can’t work? The truth is nobody really knows.

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We are quite far from AGI. Even for software work, it takes takes a huge amount of thinking at multiple levels of abstraction, writing code, testing it, examining results, searching for bugs, etc, to get something useful.

Current AI is nowhere near being able to reflect on outcomes, adjust the course of action, validate, refine, etc.

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Hi Gary -- it seems a lot of problems in this area are caused by using short and pithy definitions of intelligence rather than useful ones and then projecting near term victory in attaining AGI based on that vague definition. The definition I use for intelligence is:

Intelligence is that quality which allows an entity to solve a wide range of deductive and inductive problems, extract and prioritize information from the environment, infer causal as well as correlative relationships from both small and large data sets over many known and novel domains, generalize knowledge from a known domain to another known or novel domain, extrapolate probable outcomes from both factual and counterfactual circumstances, recognize in its own cognition both the potential for fallacies and the fallacies themselves, synthesize existing knowledge to form original concepts, and acquire awareness of its own cognition and of itself as an independent and unique entity distinct from other entities and from its environment.

It's longer than most of those out there, but it makes it much harder for premature AGI declaration. (I discuss the specifics of the definition more in a blog post)

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“AI” is also the wrong term for what we have now with LLMs. Instead, we should be calling it what it is: “Imitative Machine Learning”. It’s excellent at integrating Known-Knowns that match the source data and training scenarios. It’s excellent at imitating items from its source dataset, and combining them in differing ways.

It is, however, entirely enable to create new, and unable to deal with or create novel works. It’s output is derivative, averaging, “typical” statistically, of what it’s trained on. It’s incapable of originality, of synthesizing the new. It’s “Imitative”, not “creative”.

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It seems credible to propose that AGI is not almost here. But is AGI coming at some point? And what are the implications for society if it does? As an exercise we might assume that AGI is coming, and ask whether we want that to happen.

If we do want to see AGI emerge, what other revolutionary new powers should we welcome? Today's AI, and the possible development of AGI, aren't the end of the story, right? There are more powers of vast scale coming too, powers that we may currently not be able to even imagine, just as not that long ago we couldn't imagine today's AI. Do we want all these powers? As many as possible? As soon as possible?

Is there any limit to the powers we should give ourselves? Are we blindly assuming that human beings can successfully manage ANY amount of power, delivered at ANY rate?

What seems ironic is that those developing AI are super smart technologists, while at the same time being bad engineers. As example, a bad engineer would proudly boast that they have designed a car that can go 700mph, while ignoring that almost nobody can control a car at that speed. A bad engineer focuses only on what they want to see, and fails to take the entire situation in to account.

It seems true that we aren't on the edge of AGI emergence. We should celebrate that! Because we're no where near ready. And may never be.

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We will not only need new algorithms but probably would need a new branch of mathematics and philosophy to reach the AGI level. We have made progress on several narrow cognitive capabilities but it does not mean we can just put all of them together and we will get to AGI.

However, when we reach there, it definitely will be our last invention and another question would be what would happen if multiple organizations/countries reach at the same time, can we expect a war between these AGI machines where they or one of them survives at our expense?

An interesting article on the same topic:


The recent wave of progress in deep learning resulted from the unexpected effectiveness of applying GPU acceleration to back-propagation-based training ideas invented in the late 1980s. In between then, neural nets had mostly stagnated as an approach. Where deep learning goes next, and if it goes anywhere novel at all, is hard to know. The next major breakthrough could be another deep learning architecture like the “attention”-based transformer, but it could also come from somewhere else entirely. Perhaps some breakthrough in proof theory or symbol learning could suddenly make GOFAI viable the way deep learning suddenly made neural nets viable. Or the field could stagnate for another 20 years. Further progress may depend on some new branch of mathematics developed by an unrelated neo-Pythagorean cult. The whole thing may even depend on new philosophy or theology. It may be that no one currently working on these problems has the right mix of obscure skills and knowledge.

The real problem of AGI feasibility is philosophical: restating McCarthy’s conjecture, can we untangle what we mean by intelligence enough to build an algorithm for it? Judging by the practical and cross-cultural robustness of the concept, we probably can. We just don’t know how yet.

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HI thanks for this - did you see this? Studios ain't gonna make movies with AI if they can't protect them...from the H'wood Reporter:

"... intellectual property law has long said that copyrights are only granted to works created by humans, and that doesn’t look like it’s changing anytime soon.

A federal judge on Friday upheld a finding from the U.S. Copyright Office that a piece of art created by AI is not open to protection."😊

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There’s one word in AI we use for when something doesn’t generalize well when exposed to new things: overfitting. Models are overfitted (in a larger sense than usual) for these standardized benchmarks.

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