Is Reward Enough?


Researchers at DeepMind argued in a paper submitted to the peer-reviewed Artificial Intelligence journal last month that “Reward is enough” to reach general AI but not everyone agrees.

Computer scientists are questioning whether DeepMind, the Alphabet-owned U.K. firm that’s widely regarded as one of the world’s premier AI labs, will ever be able to make machines with the kind of “general” intelligence seen in humans and animals.

In its quest for artificial general intelligence, which is sometimes called human-level AI, DeepMind is focusing a chunk of its efforts on an approach called “reinforcement learning.”

This involves programming an AI to take certain actions in order to maximize its chance of earning a reward in a certain situation. In other words, the algorithm “learns” to complete a task by seeking out these preprogrammed rewards. The technique has been successfully used to train AI models how to play (and excel at) games like Go and chess. But they remain relatively dumb, or “narrow.” DeepMind’s famous AlphaGo AI can’t draw a stickman or tell the difference between a cat and a rabbit, for example, while a seven-year-old can.

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