During MIT's Brains, Minds, and Machines symposium, which started on May 3rd, some of the founders of artificial intelligence and cognitive science tried to explain the lack of progress in AI over the last few decades.
AI pioneer Marvin Minsky started by asking: "Why aren't there any robots that you can send in to fix the Japanese reactors? The answer is that there was a lot of progress in robotics in the 1960s and 70s and then something went wrong. Today you'll find students excited over robots that play basketball or soccer or dance or make funny faces at you. But they're not making them smarter."
Ultimately the general consensus is that the stagnation is due to decline in funding after Cold War and on early attempts to commercialize AI and because the research is focusing on ever-narrower specialties rather than seeking the bigger questions underneath.
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