Murray Shanahan

Murray Shanahan is Professor of Cognitive Robotics in the Department of Computing at Imperial College London. He is the author of Solving the Frame Problem (MIT Press) and Embodiment and the Inner Life.

  • The Technological Singularity

    The Technological Singularity

    Murray Shanahan

    The idea of technological singularity, and what it would mean if ordinary human intelligence were enhanced or overtaken by artificial intelligence.

    The idea that human history is approaching a “singularity”—that ordinary humans will someday be overtaken by artificially intelligent machines or cognitively enhanced biological intelligence, or both—has moved from the realm of science fiction to serious debate. Some singularity theorists predict that if the field of artificial intelligence (AI) continues to develop at its current dizzying rate, the singularity could come about in the middle of the present century. Murray Shanahan offers an introduction to the idea of the singularity and considers the ramifications of such a potentially seismic event.

    Shanahan's aim is not to make predictions but rather to investigate a range of scenarios. Whether we believe that singularity is near or far, likely or impossible, apocalypse or utopia, the very idea raises crucial philosophical and pragmatic questions, forcing us to think seriously about what we want as a species.

    Shanahan describes technological advances in AI, both biologically inspired and engineered from scratch. Once human-level AI—theoretically possible, but difficult to accomplish—has been achieved, he explains, the transition to superintelligent AI could be very rapid. Shanahan considers what the existence of superintelligent machines could mean for such matters as personhood, responsibility, rights, and identity. Some superhuman AI agents might be created to benefit humankind; some might go rogue. (Is Siri the template, or HAL?) The singularity presents both an existential threat to humanity and an existential opportunity for humanity to transcend its limitations. Shanahan makes it clear that we need to imagine both possibilities if we want to bring about the better outcome.

  • Solving the Frame Problem

    Solving the Frame Problem

    A Mathematical Investigation of the Common Sense Law of Inertia

    Murray Shanahan

    In 1969, John McCarthy and Pat Hayes uncovered a problem that has haunted the field of artificial intelligence ever since—the frame problem. The problem arises when logic is used to describe the effects of actions and events. Put simply, it is the problem of representing what remains unchanged as a result of an action or event. Many researchers in artificial intelligence believe that its solution is vital to the realization of the field's goals. Solving the Frame Problem presents the various approaches to the frame problem that have been proposed over the years. The author presents the material chronologically—as an unfolding story rather than as a body of theory to be learned by rote. There are lessons to be learned even from the dead ends researchers have pursued, for they deepen our understanding of the issues surrounding the frame problem. In the book's concluding chapters, the author offers his own work on event calculus, which he claims comes very close to a complete solution to the frame problem. Artificial Intelligence series