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Artificial Intelligence and the “Barrier of Meaning”

Northwest Academy 1208 SW 13th Ave, 2nd floor Portland, OR

Access parking from From 13th St. We're in the 2-story Plaza Building (not the 5-story bldg). Park anywhere except in the auction winner’s spot. If lot is full, use the lot behind the 5-story bldg. Doors will be monitored for access until 6:20 PM.



In today's news, we see plenty of stories about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing the world. There are many potential benefits to be gained from AI, but there are also a number of concerns about how it will affect our lives moving into the future. What exactly is artificial intelligence anyway?

In 1986, the mathematician and philosopher Gian-Carlo Rota wrote, “I wonder whether or when artificial intelligence will ever crash the barrier of meaning.” Here, the phrase “barrier of meaning” refers to a belief about humans versus machines. Humans are able to “actually understand” the situations they encounter, whereas AI systems (at least current ones) do not possess such understanding. The internal representations learned by (or programmed into) AI systems do not capture the rich “meanings” that humans bring to bear in perception, language, and reasoning.

In this talk, Melanie Mitchell, a professor of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning at Portland State University, will assess the state of the art of artificial intelligence in several domains and describe some of their current limitations and vulnerabilities, which can be accounted for by a lack of true understanding of the domains they work in.

Audience participation in the discussion will be encouraged, and together, we'll explore the following questions:

- To be reliable in human domains, what do AI systems actually need to “understand”?
- Which domains require human-like understanding?
- What does such understanding entail?

Join us for a great presentation and discussion about artificial intelligence! We'll have snacks, and there will be an opportunity for networking afterwards. We hope to see you there!


6:00 PM: Doors

6:10 PM: Introductions

6:15 PM: Presentation

Speaker bio:

Melanie Mitchell is Professor of Computer Science at Portland State University, and External Professor and Member of the Science Board at the Santa Fe Institute. She attended Brown University, where she majored in mathematics and did research in astronomy, and the University of Michigan, where she received a Ph.D. in computer science, Her dissertation, in collaboration with her advisor Douglas Hofstadter, was the development of Copycat, a computer program that makes analogies. She has held faculty or professional positions at the University of Michigan, the Santa Fe Institute, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the OGI School of Science and Engineering, and Portland State University.

She is the author or editor of five books and over 80 scholarly papers in the fields of artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and complex systems. Her most recent book, Complexity: A Guided Tour, published in 2009 by Oxford University Press, is the winner of the 2010 Phi Beta Kappa Science Book Award. It was also named by Amazon.com as one of the ten best science books of 2009 and was long-listed for the Royal Society's 2010 book prize. Melanie originated the Santa Fe Institute's Complexity Explorer online education program, which offers online courses and other educational resources related to the field of complex systems.

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