Events Spring 2017

Open Lecture — Does Computational Complexity Restrict Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017 4:00 pm5:00 pm PDT

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Can machines think? Philosophy and science have long explored this question. Throughout the 20th century, attempts were made to link this question to the latest discoveries -- Goedel's theorem, Quantum Mechanics, undecidability, computational complexity, cryptography etc. Starting in the 1980s, a long body of work led to the conclusion that many interesting approaches—even modest ones—towards achieving AI were computationally intractable, meaning NP-hard or similar. One could interpret this body of work as a "complexity argument against AI."

But in recent years, empirical discoveries have undermined this argument, as computational tasks hitherto considered intractable turn out to be easily solvable on very large-scale instances. Deep learning is perhaps the most famous example.

This talk revisits the above-mentioned complexity argument against AI and explains why it may not be an obstacle in reality. We survey methods used in recent years to design provably efficient (polynomial-time) algorithms for a host of intractable machine learning problems under realistic assumptions on the input. Some of these can be seen as algorithms to extract semantics or meaning out of data.

Light refreshments will be served before the lecture at 3:30 p.m.