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Alt intelligence is the new science
By Gary Marcus  |  Jul 25, 2022
Alt intelligence is the new science
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AI has lost its way, and the world must take a step back and reassess the situation. Too often, the reality of new AI has failed to live up to the hype, and so one must take a closer look at just what exactly AI is capable of, what is still beyond it, and why. Only then will efficient future breakthroughs be possible.

VANCOUVER, CANADA - For many decades, part of the premise behind artificial intelligence (AI) was that it should take inspiration from natural intelligence.

John McCarthy, one of the co-founders of AI, wrote groundbreaking papers on why AI needs common sense. Marvin Minsky, another of the field’s co-founders, wrote a book scouring the human mind for inspiration and clues as to how to build better AI, while Herb Simon won a Nobel Prize for behavioral economics. One of his key books was called Models of Thought, which aimed to explain how, “newly developed computer languages express theories of mental processes, so that computers can then simulate the predicted human behavior.”

A large fraction of current AI researchers, or at least those currently in power, seemingly do not care about any of this. Instead, the current focus is on - with thanks to cofounder and chief executive of MosaicML Naveen Rao for the term - ‘Alt Intelligence.’

Alt Intelligence is not about building machines that solve problems in ways that have to do with human intelligence. Instead, it is about using massive amounts of data - often derived from human behavior - as a substitute for intelligence. Currently, the predominant strand of work within Alt Intelligence is the idea of scaling. The notion is that the bigger the system, the closer it comes to true intelligence, or maybe even consciousness.

The study of Alt Intelligence is nothing new, but the hubris associated with it is. This can be seen in the dismissiveness with which many current AI superstars, and indeed vast segments of the whole field, treat human cognition, ignoring and even ridiculing scholars in fields such as linguistics, cognit

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