Symbolic artificial intelligence

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Symbolic artificial intelligence is the collective name for all methods in artificial intelligence research that are based on high-level "symbolic" (human-readable) representations of problems, logic and search. Symbolic AI was the dominant paradigm of AI research from the middle fifties until the late 1980s. After that time, newer sub-symbolic approaches to AI were introduced, based on neural networks, statistics, numerical optimization and other techniques. Symbolic AI continues to be applied in some smaller domains (such as knowledge representation), but the majority of AI applications in the 21st century do not employ human-readable symbols as their primary objects.[citation needed]

John Haugeland gave the name GOFAI ("Good Old-Fashioned Artificial Intelligence") to symbolic AI in his 1985 book Artificial Intelligence: The Very Idea, which explored the philosophical implications of artificial intelligence research. In robotics the analogous term is GOFAIR ("Good Old-Fashioned Robotics").

The approach is based on the assumption that many aspects of intelligence can be achieved by the manipulation of symbols, an assumption defined as the "physical symbol systems hypothesis" by Allen Newell and Herbert A. Simon in the middle 1960s:

The most successful form of symbolic AI is expert systems, which use a network of production rules. Production rules connect symbols in a relationship similar to an If-Then statement. The expert system processes the rules to make deductions and to determine what additional information it needs, i.e. what questions to ask, using human-readable symbols.

Opponents of the symbolic approach include roboticists such as Rodney Brooks, who aims to produce autonomous robots without symbolic representation (or with only minimal representation) and computational intelligence researchers, who apply techniques such as neural networks and optimization to solve problems in machine learning and control engineering.

Symbolic AI was intended to produce general, human-like intelligence in a machine, whereas most modern research is directed at specific sub-problems. Research into general intelligence is now studied in the sub-field of artificial general intelligence.

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