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Looking from mostly-outside the field (in which I've been interested in for decades but haven't had opportunity to be seriously involved), it seems to me now that part of the problem is that there are so many different possible goals and levels of achievement which might be called "AI" but which won't really satisfy most people once the chrome wears off. (Every new computing technology seemed to be calling itself AI for awhile after computing first became widely discussed -- just doing arithmetic was once "clearly" the domain of intelligence; later, it only applied to really clever things like expert systems [/sarcasm]. I haven't seen so much of that lately, so either the common understanding of computing has become more realistic or perhaps I've just trained myself to ignore it.)

For instance:

Let's say I managed to hook together an English parsing engine, a common-sense engine/database (such as Cyc), and an inference engine in such a way as to be able to take factual knowledge (such as that which might be expressed in English as "Woozle usually goes shopping in the mornings on Mondays and Fridays" plus sensed information such as the current day/time and my apparent or explicit absence from my desk) and respond to natural-language questions like "Where is Woozle?" with something like "Woozle is not here right now; Woozle has probably gone shopping and should be back by midday" or even "Woozle has never returned home from Friday shopping later than 11:23, And most likely* will be back by 10:37." (Where the software understands that "most likely" is a reasonable expression to use for, say, a 2-sigma variance or something like that.)

Would I have created AI? Or just a really useful piece of software? (Either way, why aren't there more programs which pull together these techniques? Or am I making too many assumptions about what an "inference engine" can do? According to Wikipedia, there are even "reasoning engines", which sounds extremely shiny...)

If that's not enough, then what's left? Creativity? Inductive reasoning?

In other words... where are we? Where's the roadmap of what's been done and what needs to be done?

"I guess we can try to have a debate in the philosophies about appropriate response, but I know if some dude ran a plane into my house, I'd want to kick his ass."

As I keep trying to explain to Bush Plan supporters: that is exactly what we are failing to do, and it is precisely because of the stupidity (or "inappropriateness" if you prefer) of our response to the attack that we are failing to do it.

To put it in terms that the unashamedly "WHUP ASS!!" crowd can understand: the perpetrators have probably become exhausted from rolling around on the floor laughing at us for the past few years, because we did exactly what they wanted.

The emotional reaction may be seductively appealing, but it is one through which you can be manipulated. Is that what you want?

Okay, I'm totally not understanding the claim that the attackers were cowards. Either the people saying that are using a different definition of "cowardice", or perhaps they're thinking of the attack's mastermind(s) who stayed safely at home. m-w.com defines "coward" as "one who shows disgraceful fear or timidity" -- perhaps the hijackers timidly crept to the front of the plane, and killed or incapacitated the pilots with disgracefully shaking hands?

Or perhaps you mean fear of facing their enemies directly in fair combat, instead of behind the controls of a deadly projectile? It's a bit of a twist, but I might grant an argument along those lines. On the other hand, can it ever be cowardice if you know you're going to die, regardless of how defenseless your target is?

Or maybe you mean the hijackers were too cowardly to buck their religious/jingoistic upbringing, and say "wait a minute, this is just wrong"? That one seems a bit more of a stretch, but it's at least arguable.

Also: "Murdering the defenseless isn't an act of bravery." -- the US is hardly a defenseless target. (Or, rather, would have been hardly a defenseless target if the first response system hadn't been systematically hobbled... but I digress.) Under ordinary circumstances, the hijackers should have expected their planes to be shot down rather than being allowed to reach a densely-populated area. Insider theories aside, the hijackers had absolutely no guarantee of success and should have been up against quite steep odds. Furthermore, they saw the US as the invulnerable steel monster out to destroy their way of life (whether or not this is accurate). The people in the tower, left inexplicably defenseless that day, were just the monster's Achilles heel.

Calling them "cowardly" seems to me more like an emotional bandaid -- something to mitigate the overwhelming impact of what they did -- than it sounds like either of the possible nuanced interpretations I've suggested, but I'm prepared to hear further explanation.