Is “Deep Learning” a Revolution in Artificial Intelligence?
Can a new technique known as deep learning revolutionize artificial intelligence as the New York Times suggests?
The technology on which the Times focusses, deep learning, has its roots in a tradition of “neural networks” that goes back to the late nineteen-fifties. At that time, Frank Rosenblatt attempted to build a kind of mechanical brain called the Perceptron, which was billed as “a machine which senses, recognizes, remembers, and responds like the human mind.” The system was capable of categorizing (within certain limits) some basic shapes like triangles and squares. Crowds were amazed by its potential, and even The New Yorker was taken in, suggesting that this “remarkable machine…[was] capable of what amounts to thought.”
But the buzz eventually fizzled; a critical book written in 1969 by Marvin Minsky and his collaborator Seymour Papert showed that Rosenblatt’s original system was painfully limited, literally blind to some simple logical functions like “exclusive-or” (As in, you can have the cake or the pie, but not both). What had become known as the field of “neural networks” all but disappeared.