¹ Thus Spake Zarathustra, Zarathustra’s Prologue, part 3

When Gary Marcus arrived at the nearest CompSci department which adjoined a university, he found many people assembled to study Machine Learning; for it had been announced that Strong AI would soon make an appearance there. And Gary Marcus spoke thus unto the people:

I teach you the Reasoning Agent! Connectionism is something that must be surpassed. What have you done to surpass Connectionism?

All generations hitherto have reinvented AI: and you want to be the ebb of that great tide, and would rather go back to tweaking hyper-parameters than surpass connectionism?

The Epistemology at the Root of their Failures

What do the images below have in common?

Most readers will quickly catch on that they are all seats, as in places to sit. It may have taken you less than a second to recognize this common characteristic. If I heed Andrew Ng’s suggestion that anything a human can do in less than a second can be automated by a Neural Network, then I should be able to create an image classifier that recognizes seats.

I could write a standard classifier using off-the-shelf python libraries. I can’t predict how good its confidence intervals will be. One thing I do know…

Basic Setup

So you have a design for a revolutionary new A.I. that’s been stewing in your mind for months. The time is right, and now you want to put your not-fully-formed idea to the test. You start looking around for pre-built testing environments that include some common challenges. You need these to demonstrate the business value of your designs. Where do you start?

One platform you may come across is Open A.I.’s gym. This python-based library gives you the option to test your new ideas on a suite of standard A.I. and M.L. challenges.

But there are limits to what Open…

Why A.I. seems to lack it

Imagine you asked an A.I. to cook you some food. You might think that’s a straightforward request. When you compare it to more creative tasks like painting, following a cooking recipe is routine.

And yet something crucial is missing. Even though you could train it to follow a recipe to its minutest detail, the A.I. is doomed to fail. Why? Because it doesn’t know what food is. It doesn’t know what food means. Here’s why.

How To Be Flexible

There are an infinite number of things that could go wrong while cooking. The temperature of the oven could vary by manufacturer, or the ingredients…

How to Bridge the Gap Between Them

Here’s a snippet from a conversation with a chatbot, made by the team at Facebook. There’s something wrong with the chatbot’s answer. See if you can spot what that is:

User: “What other hobbies does your son have?”

Chatbot: “Well he likes to fly kites and collect bugs, typical hobbies for a 12 year old, lol.”

There’s something wrong with what the chatbot said. It’s an issue so obvious that you may not even notice it anymore.

The A.I. has no son. Sure, that sounds obvious when I say it…

A.I. that Thinks Creatively, Part 5

[This article is a work in progress]

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

In the previous section you saw how you develop skills. Skills help you face and address problems instead of avoiding them.

In this final section, you’ll see how the ideas in all the previous sections come together to enable you to build useful thoughts. I’ll start by showing how you make two general categories of thoughts: knowledge and intents.


By “knowledge”, I mean a thought that reflects how things are in the world. What the capital of Thailand is is a type of knowledge, as…

A.I. that Thinks Creatively, Part 4

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 5

In the previous article in this series I explained how it is that you learn what experiences to fear and avoid. But you don’t just run away from all your problems. Most of the time you address and solve them. This is how you mature and grow.

So how does your mind overcome fears and aversions?

Facing and Overcoming Fears

In part 3 I explained how every one of your aversions was created by another, deeper fear or aversion. Your aversion to public speaking is rooted in your fear of being socially embarrassed.

However, the above…

Our ability to surface problems, think them through, consider possible actions and come up with a solution is a defining characteristic of our species. It is also one of our greatest strengths.

In this fictional case study I describe the steps to build a thinking, problem-solving A.I. from the ground up. It’s written as the diary of an inventor who is developing a self-driving car. Each day the author adds one more concept to the overall picture. When you reach the last day, you will see how the car has gradually developed the ability to think through problems. Writing it…

How you learn about your own consciousness

As far as you can tell, consciousness is the only thing that separates you from death. When you say that one day you will die, you mean that one day you will no longer be conscious. The feeling of being conscious is therefore valuable to you, even though you have little insight into what it is, where it comes from, or why it goes away. It’s a fascinating, if uncomfortable mystery.

The question of what exactly consciousness is can be a slippery one. There are two separate questions that need their own answers:

  1. “What is consciousness?”
  2. “Why does consciousness feel…

What does it mean for A.I. to be aware of what is going on around it? How is that different from simply seeing and hearing things?


Take a moment and turn your attention to what’s going on around you. What noises do you hear? Is there a distant hum of a fan or traffic that you hadn’t paid attention to until now? Are you gradually becoming aware of these sounds?

There is a difference between simple hearing or seeing and being aware. You are always hearing the noises around you; they are always in your ears. …


My goal is to develop and productize A.I. that combines symbolic reasoning with motivation. This A.I. will define and solve abstract problems on its own.

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