AI Generality and Spearman’s Law of Diminishing Returns

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Jose Hernandez-Orallo


Many areas of AI today use benchmarks and competitions with larger and wider sets of tasks. This tries to deter AI systems (and research effort) from specialising to a single task, and encourage them to be prepared to solve previously unseen tasks. It is unclear, however, whether the methods with best performance are actually those that are most general and, in perspective, whether the trend moves towards more general AI systems. This question has a striking similarity with the analysis of the so-called positive manifold and general factors in the area of human intelligence. In this paper, we first show how the existence of a manifold (positive average pairwise task correlation) can also be analysed in AI, and how this relates to the notion of agent generality, from the individual and the populational points of view. From the populational perspective, we analyse the following question: is this manifold correlation higher for the most or for the least able group of agents? We contrast this analysis with one of the most controversial issues in human intelligence research, the so-called Spearman's Law of Diminishing Returns (SLODR), which basically states that the relevance of a general factor diminishes for most able human groups. We perform two empirical studies on these issues in AI. We analyse the results of the 2015 general video game AI (GVGAI) competition, with games as tasks and "controllers" as agents, and the results of a synthetic setting, with modified elementary cellular automata (ECA) rules as tasks and simple interactive programs as agents. In both cases, we see that SLODR doesnot appear. The data, and the use of just two scenarios, does not clearly support the reverse either, a Universal Law of Augmenting Returns (ULOAR), but calls for more experiments on this question.

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