Norvig vs. Chomsky and the fight for the future of AI

June 29, 2011

Linguist Noam Chomsky has derided researchers in machine learning who use purely statistical methods to produce behavior that mimics something in the world, but who don’t try to understand the meaning of that behavior, points out Kevin Gold, an Assistant Professor at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Google’s Director of Research Peter Norvig has argued that there are ways of doing statistical reasoning that are more sophisticated than looking at just the previous one or two words, even if they aren’t applied as often in practice. But his fundamental stance, which he calls the “algorithmic modeling culture,” is to believe that “nature’s black box cannot necessarily be described by a simple model.” He likens Chomsky’s quest for a more beautiful model to Platonic mysticism,