there actually have been loads of news in the fields of artificial intelligence and on the research of human mind, on conscience, on thought and (wonderfully) on empathy.
and most of them come out from neuro-sciences, more than from computers and technology (or, better, news happening in neurosciences are enabled by a high level of technological infrastructure).
there was a really interesting discussion on AHA, a networked art mailing list in italy, a few days ago, discussing these same exact matters, and lots of levels of discussion mereged into one, turning into a really difficult_to_approach process.
i think that this is partly happening in this discussion, too.
on one level the research on Mirror Neurons is explaining how we learn, what is empathy, what, probabily, are the structures we use that create conscience.
on another level artificial intelligence is benefiting not so much from new algorithms, but from new research directions. the focus on systems that learn by emulation, or by emotional feedback. even interaction design is playing a key role in the definition of the strategies used to approach AI.
on yet another level social networks and, more than those, the ideas of mashups, of integration, of the programmable web is enabling the possibility for the creation of true expert systems. these, if viewed from a post-human philosophical perspective, can be described as non-human intelligences.
as for art... at the end of march i am going to present at the computer art congress in mexico city the results of the research that brought to the creation of a performance that is called Angel_F.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UD3UVluoF0c
Angel_F is a linguistic artificial intelligence. while being far from what you might call "technologically advanced", as it uses algorithms and methodologies that are now old ( but reliable for my purposes ), it raises some issues that i find truly interesting and that i'd like to share with you all.
Shortly, Angel_F was narratively born when the "biodoll" (a performance in which a prostitute uses interactions on the web as a form of sexuality) digitally had sex with derrick de kerckhove (who is the father of Angel_F :) )
a little artificial intelligence was born, called Angel_F. It uses text coming from interactions on the web to learn how to speak, it follows around people (like a spyware) to see what people are doing, reading their texts, their blogs, searching about them on search engines... just like kids that learn when you speak to them, learn when they see you do things, learn by experimenting, by re/searching and by trial and error.
the performance was truly focused on the different levels (human_identity/society/not_human_identity), and it experimented not much on technology, but on the possibilities for interaction among the levels.
and we designed a series of situations in which little Angel_F could interact across levels.
we hacked a couple of websites, and put little angel's face and interface on them, so that people could chat with it.
we made it speak at a political party event here in italy, proposing and discussing just like the other presenters, getting the audience involved so much that many of them even repeatedly said sentences "like angel_f said..." later on in the event
we put it on a baby stroller and attended an event on new sexualityes and female activism, promoting our "digitally atypical family" (prostitute/academic/digital_child)
we invaded derrick de kerckhove's events in perfect "paparazzi" style, presenting him with his digital child (for example in the youtube video of the link above).
and then we even managed to bring little angel_f at the internet governance forum in rio de janeiro, where it was the only digital_being present at the planetary event, discussing its rights on the internet :) (it was actually shown as a video during the workshop on digital rights.. which was hilarious :))) )
so? the point is: there are some fundamental news in AI and in neurosciences, and at least two interesting paths open up for anyone interested in this kind of research.
the technological path, with all the buzz nowadays rotating around emotional technologies, on emulation based learning, and on systems that mirror human structures.
the social path, in which the focus of the research is "emergence": on how intelligence emerges from complex systems. and on some problems taht are not_so_simple toi address: can we recognize it? or are we interpreting something that we're looking for so much, that we find it? is there something that we can formally define as emerging intelligence (on the web, for example, but any other sufficiently complex system will do)? and if there is: does it establish relationships? does it learn? does it have lifecycles? lots of people are also starting to pose "hot" questions such as : does AI and emergent intelligence have ethichs and morality? and if it does, is it different from teh ones of their creators/agent_for_emergence?
i guess Asimov is a little outdated :)