Interview with Nikolai Gorkav

    Nikolai Gorky, the author of the Astrovityanka trilogy, agreed to answer a few questions from Alexei Anshakov, the founder of the webRunes team, which is developing the IA open source platform - Individual Assistant.

    Nikolai Gorky - astrophysicist, writer, doctor of physical and mathematical sciences. He graduated from the Physics Department of Chelyabinsk State University and graduate school at the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences. For 12 years he worked at the Simeiz Observatory.
    Laureate of the USSR State Prize of 1989 for the prediction of the satellites of Uranus. Together with John Mater, he theoretically predicted exoplanets near Vega and Epsilon Eridan. Currently lives in the United States and works in the Suomi satellite data processing group. The asteroid 4654 Gor'kavyj is named after Nikolai Gorkavoy.

    Inca - artificial intelligence described by the author in the last book of the trilogy "The Return of the Astrovite".

    Disclaimer: in order to avoid suspicion of advertising, we do not give any information about ourselves or the project, we ask you to understand - this is not because we are so secretive. But in the future we will share with the Habr community useful information and development experience.


    Alexey: Good afternoon, Nikolay. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. When I first shared the idea of ​​IA, one of my friends recommended that I read the Astrovityanka and, already reading the third part, I was inspired by the ideas you shared about spirit related to artificial intelligence. Do you think a lot of people are now living with the idea of ​​creating Inca-like technologies and how long do we have to wait for the first versions of cyber systems?

    Nikolay:There are many people who are engaged in artificial intelligence. And they have been doing this for a long time. On my shelf are two thick volumes of "The Use of Artificial Intelligence in Space", it seems, the 1978 edition. Retired from the NASA library due to uselessness. The number of useful AI results has been astoundingly small. So far, problems such as the optimal choice of a route by cyber, or automatic docking of ships are being solved. But about 15 years ago, robots were exotic for eccentrics, and now it is an entire industry created at the request of the military, doctors and rescuers. So breakouts are possible.

    Alexei: As Ray Bradbury complained, humanity has forgotten how to dream about the global, about space, and is mired in consumerism and petty desires. But how would you rate the idea of ​​exploring and colonizing space with AI these days?

    Nikolai: I described in my book the option of colonizing the bodies of the solar system, when AI robots are sent forward, which are able to build a base of local materials and without the direct involvement of humans. And a person does not fly into the desert, but into a comfortable city. So for the colonization of space, AI, perhaps, will be more important than powerful rocket engines.

    Alexei: Science fiction writers have always been far ahead of progress, because they are limited only by their imagination, and not by the development of science. Do you think that the creation of AI is possible at all akin to the Inca described by you and, if so, what is the forecast for the appearance of the first AI in time, at least in the vein: this half century, second, next century? And what do you think in this world about the Chinese room ?

    Nikolay:I believe that it takes about fifty years for the first versions of real artificial intelligence, similar to Inca, to be talked to, without being annoyed at his lack of understanding or at the fact that he does not perceive your speech, although you left the dentist two hours ago, and your frozen jaw has almost thawed. Such an AI should not be a waste, but a system capable of independently searching and analyzing important information for you, as well as practically useful advice.
    The question of the Chinese room is more a philosophical question than a cybernetic one. The trick is that the mind is perceived by us as a kind of qualitative - and so far incomprehensible - leap over sorting binary numbers. There is an element of enthusiastic admiration. Self-theft, if you will. When we thoroughly understand how the cyber system functions, it is difficult for us to recognize it as reasonable. There is no mystery! Therefore, we do not want to attribute intelligence to a Chinese room of any scale. Who knows, when we understand the details - how a person’s brain functions - will we not refuse the rationality of most of the human race? Just think, there is a two-legged crowd of Chinese rooms with gramophone records in their heads and with simple logic for calling behavioral routines.

    Alexei:How can one not recall Bulgakov’s phrase spoken by the mouth of Professor Bormental:
    - That is, he spoke? This does not mean to be human.
    Unfortunately, everything that is not invented is used by mankind primarily for military purposes. But in what areas, in your opinion, it would be worth starting to use AI from a commercial point of view, and in which for humanity as a whole?

    Nikolay:I think the commercial time has come for the simple yet useful AI. You don’t need a speech recognizer and synthesizer, don’t have to swindle at a cyber poet or a cyber psychiatrist - you need to do at least something useful, capable of independent work. For example, now search engines for given words almost instantly give out a bunch of information that people have to sort out. Now imagine a search engine to which a person sets 10-20 keywords, as well as the maximum file size - 10 pages - and goes to bed himself. In the morning, a file awaits him, in which fifty of the most interesting paragraphs from various sources are collected, with their list below, as in a regular article. After reviewing this material and the most interesting links, the student will make the necessary essay in two ways, and the scientist will understand at what level is the topic that interests him.
    Or another example. If you take a large database - for example, earthquakes, then it forms at least a space of five dimensions - three coordinates, time and magnitude of the shock. Let us set a simple task - to compare seismic activity in two rectangular regions of this space and calculate the correlation coefficient between seismicities as functions of time. It is easy to understand that the choice of one rectangular region by coordinates and magnitude gives 8 variables. The second area will give 8 more variables. So, to sort through at least 10 values ​​of each variable, you need to do 10 16(ten million billion) samples from the base and correlation coefficient calculations. There are 30 million seconds in a year. How many years will a regular computer take to complete this task? We are not talking about the fact that the time function can have a different averaging step, but it would be nice to check the correlation even with time shifts. How does a person solve this problem? He makes calculations and analyzes all the time - will there be a sign of correlation that will require deepening in this direction? And of course, he can browse the desired path - the work day is over, and it’s time to go on vacation next week ... If only someone could do an independent data analyzer - even with ant intelligence - that could crawl around a given loose pile of numbers in search of pearls of patterns and report to a person once a day: “That's what I found, master!”
    For humanity as a whole, the most important thing is the training Internet systems that would allow every teenager to have a personal teacher who has infinite patience and is ready to adapt to the level of any schoolchild without mocking him.

    Alexei:In today's world, a huge number of lonely people who do not understand, do not perceive with their shortcomings. And you described the scene in the third part of the “Astrovityanka” in which such people found solace in communication with the Inca. Do not you think that over time, many people will seek refuge in communication with a smart, but machine, and not try to build interpersonal relationships that imply such concepts as: compromise and tolerance for the shortcomings of a loved one, loyalty, the need to take care of yourself, think before you say a lot more? Indeed, to please others, people often try to be better. And with an android, all this is not necessary, it will be with you, no matter what you do, it is enough to just have the necessary amount on the account for its purchase.

    Nikolay:The problem of escapism has repeatedly arisen before humanity. People get away from talking to other people in a drunken reading of books. People recklessly cut into cards, spit on the family and children. TV sucked in most of the free time of most of the population. Now the Internet and social networks have given even more opportunities to achieve not real, but virtual successes. Yes, a new round of this problem will inevitably arise when AI and even humanoid androids appear. Remember how the heroine of “Terminator” looks at the robot playing with her son and thinks - what a good father! Do not get drunk and do not offend. Let's hope that real girls will always remain more attractive than most dolls for most young men.

    Alexei:And, as a continuation of the previous question, will we face the problem of war with machines? Indeed, intelligence implies self-awareness, what thoughts will a creature have, which over time will become much more intelligent than any of the living people? Contempt? A pity? Any much more complex feelings that we don’t even know and are unlikely to understand due to natural human limitations? Is it possible to lay the notorious rules formulated by Isaac Asimov to protect humanity from its own creation?

    Nikolay:The assertion that “intelligence means self-awareness” is still hanging in the air: we do not know what intelligence is because we did not build its working model, and we do not know what self-awareness is and at what stage in the development of the cyber system it arises. The question of such emotions as pity and contempt is not an easy one. How much are they anthropomorphic and related to the work of our hormonal system? How possible is the introduction of human-like emotions into the cyber system? Wouldn't it be a simple imitation, a Chinese emotional room?
    Azimov’s laws will certainly be laid in robots - a machine war is now easy to arrange, because robots with machine guns are already mass-produced. But among the developers there are not enough idiots to put the possibility of getting out of control in the software of such machines.

    This is what the Blue Brain Project researchers say about consciousness :
    “If consciousness appears as a result of a critical mass of interactions, then it may be possible. But we really don’t understand what consciousness is, so it’s hard to talk about it. ”
    Original text:
    "If consciousness arises because of some critical mass of interactions, then it may be possible. But we really do not understand what consciousness actually is, so it is difficult to say. ”

    Alexei: Will the machine create a world where everything that can be automated and works as efficiently as possible? What professions will remain? What to do with the vast masses of unnecessary people? Will we face new Luddites?

    Nikolay:We have long been living in a world where most of the professions and people are not connected with the production of food, clothing or machine tools. Doctors, lawyers, journalists, car mechanics, waiters, sellers, bankers, artists, writers, all inhabitants of the world of television, cinema, sports, fashion and music with songs - have long been self-serving society, that is, they work for themselves. This is due to the fact that one farmer feeds a hundred non-farmers, and one worker makes pants, cars and refrigerators for a dozen non-farmers. If you raise automation to one hundred percent, then just the last workers will join the already numerous rows of talkers and dancers.

    Alexei:Nikolay, you touched on this issue in your trilogy, but do you think that the car will ever be able to create? Create non-trivial paintings, come up with beautiful music, songs, jokes, invent?

    Nikolai: Maybe, but why take away these vital niches from a person? You can invent without much creativity, simply transferring ideas from one area to another and computers will do this, because it is useful. You can make a machine that specializes in abstract painting - and it will surpass many of the current authors. But why offend them like that? People after all.

    Alexey: Nikolay, and the last question. Perhaps you want to say something or recommend to potential developers of “smart systems” who are currently reading the interview?

    Nikolay:I have already described a couple of intelligent programs that are good to create. No need to chase spectacularity, do something effective, minimally useful to a large number of people. And then people will be drawn to your intellect!

    Alexei: Thank you, Nikolai, for the answers!
    And to our readers: if you want Nikolai Gorkavy to answer your questions, please ask them in the comments. The list of questions will be transmitted to Nikolai, and his answers will be published in the next article.

    UPDATE: answers to interview questions can be found here.

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