If someone were to tell you that there was a single equation that could accurately describe the incredible breadth and diversity of intelligent behavior, you’d probably look at them and scoff. How could any single equation possibly capture everything from the choice between what to wear in the morning and what move to make in a game of chess? So, this equation may have a while yet before it can definitively address everything, but this mathematical relationship developed by Alexander Wissner-Gross of Harvard University and Cameron Freer of the University of Hawaii may begin to start addressing many intelligent behaviors.
In Inside Science’s “Physicist Proposes New Way To Think about Intelligence”, author Chris Gorski describes that the main principle of this theory draws on the postulation that “intelligent behavior stems from the impulse to seize control of future events in the environment (insidescience.org).” The math behind the theory stems from an unusual, yet familiar source: entropy. A core concept of physics, entropy is used to describe chaos and disorder in a given system. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that this theory effectively utilizes thermodynamics as a model for intelligence. The math is implemented in a software engine the researchers have cleverly named Entropica, and is used to model simple environments to test the theory. Inside Science’s article describes a test where Entropica is given a simple environment with tools and possibilities. “It actually self-determines what its own objective is,” said Wissner-Gross. “This [artificial intelligence] does not require the explicit specification of a goal, unlike essentially any other [artificial intelligence].”
So what does this mean for society? As you might imagine, a unifying theory for just about anything is going to have groundbreaking implications. Economics, robotics, and social sciences, to name a few, are all fields that could be impacted with this research. Additionally, a model that could accurately predict how consumers will respond to a change in price would be enormously beneficial for businesses. And the incredible possibilities that this stirs within artificial intelligence circles will no doubt have people implementing this theory into the next generation of AI. Perhaps one day we will be able to model how we came to this point, and where our intelligence will take us in the future.