The Information Lens – helping to correct the failure of the Perceptron

In the rich history of information processing, the idea of the preceptron occurred, based on the founding ideas of the artificial neuron (McCulloch and Pitts, 1943). Including the available knowledge of learning, Frank Rosenblatt constructed the perceptron devices, building the first of artificial learning machines, and as such creating the first neural nets in 1957.

As referenced in “Calling Bullshit” (Ch. 8, intro), the preceptron did get great credits and expectations, like those rom 1958 ( NY Times, July 8, 1958 ):

“…will be able to walk, talk, see, write,
reproduce itself and be conscious of its existence”

More than 60 years later, we’re still waiting for some – or even most – of these promises to realize. The basic ideas were easy to construct ‘in the mind’, but hard to implement in an artifact.

The “information century” was launched by Turing’s 1936 invention of a hardware-independent notion of computing, a “universal computer” that could be programmed to simulate any other computer; and by Shannon’s 1948 discovery of a mathematical theory of communications independent of their physical form and even their meaning.

Arguably, we are today in the midst of another information revolution, with the advent of neurons and qubits as new representation and processing elements for information. These advances, together with the exponential growth in memory and speed of conventional computing, have made it hazardous to conjecture any informational task at which humans will not be soon bested by computers.

Analogue to the 1950’s, we risk to get overwhelmed by a large set of mental constructs, statements and promises which will not be easy or even possible to become reality.

The challenge is related to “the information lens”; the view of science and technology trough the unifying lens of information.

Viewing the world through an informational lens, and understanding constraints and trade-offs such as energy and parallelism versus reliability and speed, will have profound consequences throughout technology and science. This includes not only mathematics and the natural sciences like physics and biology, but also social sciences such as psychology and linguistics.

The First IBM Research Workshop on the Informational Lens (September 29 – October 2, 2020) had as goal to bring together leading researchers in science and technology from across the globe to discuss ideas and future research directions through the informational lens. The workshop themes included quantum computing, mathematics and computer science, biology and intelligence, and physics.Every day, there were talks and discussions related to the linkage between:

  • Day 1: quantum physics and information
  • Day 2: mathematics, computer science and information
  • Day 3: biology, neuroscience, natural and artificial intelligence and information
  • Day 4: mathematical physics and information

Some sessions are made available and accessible on the site. Replays can also to be found on the Youtube Channel

I like to share these interesting discussions and lectures, in order to help us overcome the risks of believing the easy or empty promises, like the ones of 1958.

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