Book Review: What is Thought? by Eric Baum
The first half of this book is an overview of the field of artificial intelligence that might be one of the best available introductions for people who are new to the subject, but which seemed fairly slow and only mildly interesting to me.
The parts of the book that are excellent for both amateurs and experts are chapters 11 through 13, dealing with how human intelligence evolved.
He presents strong, although not conclusive, arguments that the evolution of language did not involve dramatic new modes of thought except to the extent that improved communication improved learning, and that small catalysts created by humans might well be enough to spark the evolution of human-like language in other apes.
His recasting of the nature versus nurture debate in terms of biases that guide learning is likely to prove more valuable at resisting the distortions of ideologues than more conventional versions (e.g. Pinker’s).
His arguments have important implications for how AI will progress. He convinced me that it will be less sudden than I previously thought, by convincing me that truly general-purpose learning machines won’t work, and that much of intelligence involves using large quantities of data about the real world to choose good biases with which to guide our learning.