This suggestion came from a comment on another thread, but I thought it was worthy of it's own meta question, so people can vote on and discuss it.

Here is the full comment:

"I came across the site, and expected to be able to ask questions about theory of the AIXI agent (for example), and was very disappointed to find that it was mostly focused on social issues. At the very least, it seems like the history of AI theory should be on-topic, and all of that is very technical. There's kind of a chicken-and-egg problem here--the site can't be properly defined until it attracts enough experts, and it won't attract experts until there are interesting questions."

I left the second part of the comment in to illustrate how this connects to what might be seen as our #1 imperative: to attract experienced experts as contributors.

  • $\begingroup$ "There's kind of a chicken-and-egg problem here--the site can't be properly defined until it attracts enough experts, and it won't attract experts until there are interesting questions." whomever wrote that comment or statement does not supposed to be here nor banned from from our community in small wires of the INTERNET.We are experts/professionals here...and even might be an expert but daunting him/herself.Once again we are a small species in unified Artificial Intelligence Community.And we love, everyday it attracts new users.Humans appreciate what you have. $\endgroup$ – quintumnia Aug 10 '17 at 17:12
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    $\begingroup$ @quintumnia Although I also appreciate your viewpoint Q, we're doing ok from that perspective I think. The humanities aspects of AI have been vigorously defended, at times by myself. BUT there is a another side to the equation, and I'm working based on recurrent feedback about the weaknesses, as opposed to the strengths, of this Stack in its current form. I do think we can reframe or expand the parameters with input from researchers, engineers and scholars, in hopes of attracting more. The comment above was definitely not meant maliciously, but arose from desire to broaden AI engagement. $\endgroup$ – DukeZhou Aug 10 '17 at 21:08

I was under the impression that history and theory were already on-topic. Social issues is one new topic we bring to the SE table, but academic questions (about AI as a discipline/science) are also ours to present. Key quote from a community manager in the Area 51 Discussion Zone, emphasis original:

Notice that this proposal is in the 'Science' category; not 'Technology'. Despite the creation of a Data Science site to cover this topic, the community made a sufficiently compelling case that there is a swath of questions in the academic humanities arena that are not covered by our current sites.

I realize now that when drafting the on-topic page I forgot to include a bullet point to cover these questions. I apologize for the oversight and have corrected it. As always, suggestions for improvement to that page's contents are welcome!

  • $\begingroup$ Ok, great. Thanks for the clarification Ben. $\endgroup$ – datageist Aug 9 '17 at 21:49
  • $\begingroup$ @BenN ,Thanks for the great insightful knowledge.Lets have some chips and wines.though virtually. $\endgroup$ – quintumnia Aug 10 '17 at 17:14

I definitely understand the concerns about the overlap between CrossValidated, Data Science, and this site. What we need to do, to help the site get more traction, is to define that boundary in a useful way. At a high level, it wouldn't make sense to reject a site about statistics because a perfectly good mathematics site already existed. Statistics has different goals, conventions, notation, and concerns--even though it's almost all mathematics.

I'd argue that the failures of the previous sites were more a question of timing than content. Serious interest in AI is on the horizon again, very recently, precisely because of advances in ML. That doesn't mean, however, that AI proper is the same thing as ML, or needs to be focused on implementation issues. There's a large amount of theory that isn't necessarily data science, either.

We went through some of the same growing pains on Signal Processing. The approach we took there (and I'm not saying it's the right approach for AI), was to concentrate mostly on theory, and avoid implementation details. It's something that didn't exist, and it gave us a way to attract experts who weren't programmers.

Explicitly making the history of AI on-topic, however technical, might be a good starting point to help clarify what a site dedicated to AI can add to the SE network. I'm not saying that it's necessarily off-topic now, but given that MathJax isn't even enabled yet, there's currently a strong bias toward strictly non-technical questions.

I think the AIXI agent is a good example to begin discussing these issues. It's heavily mathematical, based on reinforcement learning, inspired by statistical reasoning (ala. Solomonoff's Universal Prior), and uses non-computable concepts (i.e. Kolomogorov Complexity). So, there's a potential overlap with any number of fields, but really it's proper AGI. It's a much more practical definition of intelligence than, say, the Turing Test--precisely because it's defined mathematically. At the very least, it seems like definitions of intelligence should be on-topic, and we need math for those.

It might warrant a completely separate meta question, but I'll offer one thought on how to help clarify the scope of the site (in addition to including AI history). Let's start with Peter Norvig's definition of AI (from Frank Dernoncort's slides):

We think of AI as understanding the world and deciding how to make good decisions. Dealing with uncertainty but still being able to make good decisions is what separates AI from the rest of computer science.

Any discussion of decision making under uncertainty will almost necessarily involve probability and statistics. However, the challenges involved in automating those decisions effectively, in my opinion, are the domain of Artificial Intelligence, whether general or specialized. That definition also includes all of the potential social issues.

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    $\begingroup$ This is very salient and useful. AIXI personally highlights the beed to attract more experienced experts. (I've been making a point about the problems with non-mathematical categorization of AI strength, but since I hadn't come across AIXI until you mentioned it, I've been talking about "strength" in relation to the concept of the solved game in Combinatorial Game Theory!;) $\endgroup$ – DukeZhou Aug 9 '17 at 19:49

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