Moravec's Paradox

Oct 9, 2023

Moravec’s Paradox is the observation that high-level reasoning (e.g., chess, math) is relatively easy for computers to perform, while simple sensory tasks (e.g., perception, reflexes, mobility) are much harder.

Moravec believed that most people thought this result was the opposite of what most people expected,

It is comparatively easy to make computers exhibit adult-level performance on intelligence tests or playing checkers, and difficult or impossible to give them the skills of a one-year-old when it comes to perception and mobility. – Hans Moravec

He hypothesized this was because high-level reasoning was a relatively recent development in human evolution that was built on top of the much older, low-level sensory and motor skills.

You can see Moravec’s paradox everywhere today – from chess-playing AIs (easy) to self-driving cars (hard). It has implications for our expectations for AI. Tasks we find easy might not translate easily to AI (I think this is true even within reasoning tasks).

It’s another argument that AI won’t replace humans. Instead, it might complement us.