Proposal: Artificial Intelligence

"AI" questions are already on-topic on several sites. Engineering questions about tools like TensorFlow, Torch, etc. are on topic on Stack Overflow. In fact Stack Overflow is the site that the creators of many of those tools direct people to ask their questions.

There is Cross Validated which covers Statistical Machine Learning. Anything related to statistics is covered there. There is Computer Science which includes all scientific subfields of Computer Science related to "AI". There is now Data Sciences which covers applications of machine learning to data analysis. Computational Linguistic and Natural Language Processing are also covered by Linguistics. Philosophical questions are covered by Philosophy.

The recent increased interest is focused completely on Statistical Machine Learning (which includes topics like Neural Networks, Graphical Models, Deep Learning, Reinforcement Learning, ...) and its applications, which are already covered by these existing sites.

What is not covered already that would justify a new AI proposal?

There has been two AI proposals that went to beta and then failed. I supported one. There is a reason that they fail. Let me direct people to Robert answer from last year. These AI proposals don't come with the backing of a group of "AI" experts. The experts in "AI" are happy using the existing sites like Stack Overflow and Cross Validated. These AI proposals come from people who are not experts in "AI" but enthusiasts who might have taken a machine learning course or read a popsci or scifi book related to "AI", they often lack familiarity with the fields related to "AI" and are unaware of how these fields are actually organized. Without the backing of a group of experts in "AI" these sites will continue to fail.

I think this proposal will definitely fail and is a waste of people's time unless it is backed by a significant number of experts and researchers in "AI". Therefore my opinion is that this proposal should not go ahead unless we see a good number of experts and researchers in "AI" have committed to it.

If you can convince at least 50 experts and researchers in these fields to commit then sure, let's give this another try. Otherwise don't waste time on a proposal that even if it gets to beta will be shut down pretty quickly.

PS: By experts and researchers we mean experts and researchers in Machine Learning, Computer Vision, Computational Linguistics, Knowledge Representation and Reasoning, Computational Learning Theory, etc. If you are a "Professional or Expert" or "Academic or Research-Level Student" in another field but not in these fields you should not commit to this proposal claiming to be "Professional or Expert" or "Academic or Research-Level Student".

PPS: Here are some of previous failed "AI" sites: AI, ML, ML. None survived even a month.


2 Answers 2


The whole point of the proposal is to build up a knowledge base on AI, and cover the field from its inception to current advances. Your question points out critical issues to address (cheers), but I see a few good reasons to keep going:


The vague field of AI does have a history on its own. A few of us know about it, and I believe that quite a few would like to know about it too. This is usually not discussed in the sites linked from the question. Just a few keywords (no particular order, just RAM): Expert systems, Logo, Situation Calculus, artificial mouse and mazes, a Brick World, Deduction/Induction, Case-Based Reasoning, the Chinese room, the Subsumption Architecture. Sure we have the amazing Wikipedia and its pointers, but there may be quite a few questions around related to this history and what it can teach us for the future. Some understand that NN are not the final answer to any ultimate question.


Magazines and distinguished newspapers around me pounder that this year is the "year of AI" (whatever it means; and by the way the year of IoT too). This context is a significant difference with the two previous attempts. The environment in which we are evolving is changing fast, and there may be ground now to have an AI Q&A somewhere. As K. Kelly wrote "the business plans of the next 10,000 startups are easy to forecast: Take X and add AI".

Point of view

A lot of exciting questions today pertain to NN, CNN, RNN, and co., and they can be addressed on some existing SE sites. But do these sites cover all aspects of these techniques, technologies, and perspectives? It's a hard bet, even if we can (rightly) argue it may be all that matters. However let's assume that someone is trying to understand RNNs, she would probably hit Wikipedia first, and then some online courses and blogs. But then she may have "naive" or "beginner's" questions that are not going deep into Cross Validated or Data Sciences.

Another example that has happened to me three times in less than a year: A young & dynamic person has some business idea; she's not technical and talks with engineers; she's adviced to use RNNs; she wants to grasp a bit what it is about. Again Wikipedia can give a hand, but when you tailor a technology to a business idea, you usually need answers to your questions.

This "point of view" aspect cannot be discarded easily, in the light of the so many SE sites that exist already: SO and Programmers, Android Enthusiasts and SO (Java?), etc. Several non-SO sites offer an interesting perspective on software.

There is no stupid question

If there are too few "experts" or "professionals", the site can fail, yes. Trial is what it takes to build up a community. If there is significant activity from "non-expert people", experts are likely to come and share. This is how SO was born, and that is how Quora seems to thrive these days. I got in touch with ex-colleagues, students, OpenAI, experts who hardly speak English. They do express interest, but they can't contribute without trying. I am not saying they will move if there is a Q&A, though, the thing needs be attractive, meaningful---that's why SE. I agree this point is debatable, and its validity is speculative, based on the History and 2016 points above.

All this is a bet. I believe we have to do it to know what is going to happen. Is it a waste of time? Well, one assumption is that people spend their time freely. We have stated several times that two attempts have failed a few years ago. We can assume that people know and can choose for themselves.

One final note on where the AI proposals come from. I did not look at the profiles of the previous instigators to check whether they match the 'people who are not experts in "AI" but enthusiasts who might have taken a machine learning course or read a popsci or scifi book related to "AI" [...]'. If that can serve---I doubt it---I do not match that profile, by something like 20 years (a bit less).

To end the final note, I would like to thank Kaveh for elaborating on what is basically the frame of this AI proposal. Thanks also for reminding people to make thoughtful commitments. That is the most important message to me: If we think it is worth it, the rest just follows.

As for your important point on: "In fact Stack Overflow is the site that the creators of many of those tools direct people to ask their questions.", I am not sure about the implicit conclusions of the post. SO is by far the StackExchange site for anything related to software. The tools (TensorFlow, Torch, etc?) are software, and the creators want to hit the largest software community first. That's why they go to SO, and not Cross Validated or Data Sciences. Note that usual questions are not really about "AI", but about how to use the tools' APIs... After all, you can draw a Mandelbrot Set with TensorFlow.

  • For some reason, I can only log in on iOS devises (bug filled with SE). Apologies as feedback is going to be slow. Commented May 9, 2016 at 7:22
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    I have already stated my views and I don't think I have much to add to what I have already said. I personally would have taken the proposal more seriously if the quality of proposed questions were not so low (almost all are answerable by reading the relevant Wikipedia articles or are broad vague primary opinion based), if it came from "AI" experts, if there were committers who are actively asking and answering "AI" questions, if you had discussed it with experts and got their opinion.
    – Kaveh
    Commented May 14, 2016 at 18:19
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    In my view, this proposal -- like the previous ones -- stems from the desires (not needs) of outsider hobbyists (not experts).
    – Kaveh
    Commented May 14, 2016 at 18:20

You're right that we already have StackExchange websites that can handle all these existing questions. I'd even go further and state that those who are wondering about "Friendly AI" and the Singularity can also go to Worldbuilding, claiming that they are writing a science fiction story and already have a fictional "world" in mind that just need some fleshing out. If the What If? goes into beta, questions about "Friendly AI"/Singularity concepts might also appear over there.

However, you now have 6 to 8 StackExchange websites that an AI programmer has to visit to get the help he needs. One of the highest ranked example questions for this site is "How emotional intelligence could be implemented in AI?" Now, you can get that question answered right here on Stack Exchange! All you have to do is break it down into smaller questions, each appropriately scoped...

  • Oh, you want a definition of Emotional Intelligence so you can figure out how to program it into an bot? Go to Philosophy.
  • Okay, you now got that definition? Good, now you need to acquire a dataset and analyze it before you feed it over to a machine learning algo like Torch so that it can learn Emotional Intelligence...head over to Cross Validated.
  • And now you have a problem with using Torch? Stack Overflow is your man.
  • Wait, wait, wait...you don't actually need machine learning for AI? There's other forms of AI out there that you could use instead that are just as good at Emotional Intelligence, but is much faster and more efficient? Let's head on over to Computer Science then...

And so on and so forth. The AI programmer is stuck traveling from one site to another (though Google is helping out), asking questions on each individual site, to try and figure out how to accomplish his single goal. This AI programmer is a migratory beast, out to stitch together random answers on Stack Exchange into a coherent 'whole' that he can then use. Not only is this fate a rather big inconvenience for the programmer in question, but future people will probably have to retrace the same steps as our original AI programmer if they ever wanted to implement Emotional Intelligence in their bots as well (again, Google can help out here...but you can't use the existence of an search engine algorithm to justify keeping an AI community fragmented).

In addition, each of the 6 to 8 sites each have their own community, with their unique experts, ideas, and cultural traditions. The "time until answer" will vary, as well as the quality of the final answers, and their tolerance levels towards these migratory AI programmers and their various questions that kinda, sorta apply to the scope of the site.

Is it sensible for AI programmers to be dependent on 6 to 8 different sites, at any given time? Is it sensible for these 6 to 8 sites to pander to these AI programmers instead of answering other questions? Or is it better to instead consolidate AI-specific questions from these 6 to 8 different sites, onto a single site that is easy to browse and look up? Some overlap between the communities may be inevitable, but it's better than the current status quo.

As of the time of this answer (12:54 AM GMT, Saturday, May 7th), we have 15 self-proclaimed experts/academics. So we are 30% of the way towards your proposed target of 50 experts/academics.

  • I did look at the profile of several people who committed to proposal claiming they are expert or academics before posting. I think many are choosing that without understanding that it is for people who are experts and academics on the topic of the site. That is why I have that ps. Here is a better way to see if someone is an expert: they have posted good answers to existing "AI" questions on SE sites. As far as I have looked that is not the case.
    – Kaveh
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 1:44
  • I can accept the idea of people mistakingly classifying themselves as experts. That is going to be difficult to deal with, as while a site could exist without experts, it may be of fairly low-quality. Commented May 7, 2016 at 1:46
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    This is one of the oldest arguments on area 51: "I don't want to visit multiple sites, I want one site that covers exactly what I care about." It is not a good argument to say the least. As you can see this has been tried a few times and failed and I don't see any reason why this one will be different.
    – Kaveh
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 1:47
  • I would rather have an explanation of why it is a bad argument, rather just saying "it's a bad argument". And yeah, this has been tried before. Just because it failed before doesn't mean it'll fail again (though I can admit failure can be pretty likely). Commented May 7, 2016 at 1:49
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    ps: Let me add that I supported one of them quite actively. I even sent personal emails to serval experts and researchers in machine learning and computer vision and computational linguistics that I personally know asking them to visit the site when it was in beta.
    – Kaveh
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 1:51
  • Here's what I think might be a good way to gauge the success of any AI proposal (both now and in the future). How often has there ever been a horde of AI programmers that has posted questions across the six (or seven, including Worldbuilding) StackExchange sites, going from site to site to post questions? If there is, then there's certainly a sustained demand for AI questions that can then be steered into this forum. If there isn't, and the questions only appear periodically, then the interest is merely cursory. There's no need for a dedicated site then... Commented May 7, 2016 at 1:55
  • ...and any highly-upvoted questions here could be slowly migrated to the sites with the appropriate scope, to be summarily answered and indexed by Google. Commented May 7, 2016 at 1:56
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    Before explaining why it is a bad idea let me say that 3 rapid failures of previous proposals is a good sign that there is a fundamental problem and the fundamental as I wrote in my question and as Robert stated in his linked answer is this: these proposals are not backed by experts, these are by people are not familiar with how these fields are organized. As an outsider you might think they should all be happy to be on one site, from their perspective it is like trying to combine HCI with Systems.
    – Kaveh
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 2:09
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    Cross Validated is full of experts in machine learning, these experts are not going to abandon their own site and replace it with this proposal just because some outsiders want them to. From their perspective Machine Learning is closer to Statistics than it is to Computational Linguistics or Knowledge Representation and Reasoning or other topics that you think should be combined with it. That is why I am saying those making these proposals are not familiar with how these topics are actually organized.
    – Kaveh
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 2:10
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    With at least 3 previous failed similar proposals I would like to see a clear explanation of why the faith of this one will be different. I don't see any indication that it will be.
    – Kaveh
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 2:15
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    Why the argument in your post is not a good one: everyone has their own different personal interests and wants the SE sites to be organized according to their will. That doesn't work! What is required for a site to succeed is having an active core group of experts (50+) to define and push the site forward. Successful sites are not organized according to what consumers want, they are organized according to what experts want! Do experts in "AI" want a unified site for "AI"? Based on the previous 3 failures and several discussion with experts I would say no, they don't seem to want it.
    – Kaveh
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 2:31
  • I don't have faith that this time will be different. I'm too much of a cynic for that. But I suspect that a site can still stay alive if users only want answers, and are willing to accept low-quality (but still "correct") answers from non-experts. After all, some of these questions might not require expertise...just a creative understanding and application of existing knowledge. Even the stats of the 'failed' sites don't seem that horrible, as a non-expert (80%-100% questions answered, with an average of over 2 answers per questions, seems fairly okay). Commented May 7, 2016 at 2:41
  • Now, I do understand that dedicated non-experts might not be enough to 'define and push the site forward', so I can see why the sites ultimately had to shut down. Commented May 7, 2016 at 2:54
  • I am concerned with the focus on "AI programmers" in your answer. It seems too narrow to me. I believe more people are interested in the topic, it's history, and what we could/can/will expect from it. Could you build up a more generic argument? Commented May 9, 2016 at 7:25
  • I suppose I could write a more general argument (pointing out how people may want a general overview of AI that avoids too much technical jargon and more an emphasis on real-world results and implications), but that would require me to rewrite the whole post from scratch, and would essentially cover the same ground as your answer. Thanks for pointing out that my argument was too narrow and did not fully take into account other audiences. Commented May 9, 2016 at 23:36

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