The phrase “artificial intelligence,” or AI, seems to be on everybody’s lips these days—along with a lot of questions. After a spurt of development in the 1950s and 1960s, AI languished for a time. Now advances such as machine learning are driving it into multiple fields of human endeavor, from transportation to medicine to finance. But applying AI successfully for all of us means improving it. And one way to do that, writes researcher Alison Gopnik in our cover story, “An AI That Knows the World Like Children Do,” is to teach its networks to learn like a child. The challenge of helping machines develop like youngsters will provide computer scientists with challenges for years—and the rest of us with some societal conundrums. Should we worry? “Natural stupidity can wreak far more havoc than artificial intelligence,” Gopnik writes. Amen.
Elsewhere in the issue, we look at more mysteries of the mind—from why the brain likes lying politicians to how thought is a community effort to new solutions for motor neuron scourges such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and Parkinson’s.
As ever, we’d love to hear what you think.