Comments on Ben Goertzel’s post: vision vs. touch / kinesthetics

visionRecently I came across a blurb by Ben Goertzel1 titled, vision vs. touch/kinesthetics.

This short blog post questions the importance of vision in AI research.

I had an urge to comment on his post, and these are my comments:

Touch and kinesthesis2 are important elements for all animal intelligence – not just human intelligence. However, if we rely just on our bodies to perceive our environment then our perceived world would be very small. Vision, as well as the sense of smell and the sense of hearing, gives us a means to perceive the world at a safe distance. That is, vision allows us to extend our perception of the world beyond our physical bodies.

From an embodied cognition point of view, an understanding of an environment emerges via the relationship between sensory inputs, and the more sensory inputs a system has, the more profound its perception. In this respect, it is clear vision and touch are equally important.

René Descartes (1596–1650), Body Physics

The obsession of vision, in AI circles, is more based on the difficulties of reproducing it, not with its importance with regards to human intelligence. In terms of algorithmic processing, touch/kinematics is fairly straightforward, because it is a more concrete sense. In contrast, vision is more abstract, and therefore, there is more room for interpretation.

Visual processing, the sequence of steps that information takes as it flows from visual sensors to cognitive processing, is very complex. That is, there are many informational elements of a visual scene that has to be processed, for example, color, contour, shadow, reflection, and surface texture, to name a few.

For me, a more profound question is why are AI researchers obsessed with human intelligence? If we could recreate the intelligence of any mammal, an autonomous machine that perceives and interacts with its environment, that would be a remarkable accomplishment.

We may make more progress developing AI if we take smaller steps.

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  1. Ben Goertzel is a researcher with similar research interests
  2. kinesthesis – the ability to feel movements of the limbs and body.

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