Is there a simple algorithm for intelligence?

My own prejudice is in favour of there being a simple algorithm for intelligence. And the main reason I like the idea, above and beyond the (inconclusive) arguments above, is that it's an optimistic idea. When it comes to research, an unjustified optimism is often more productive than a seemingly better justified pessimism, for an optimist has the courage to set out and try new things. That's the path to discovery, even if what is discovered is perhaps not what was originally hoped. A pessimist may be more "correct" in some narrow sense, but will discover less than the optimist.

This point of view is in stark contrast to the way we usually judge ideas: by attempting to figure out whether they are right or wrong. That's a sensible strategy for dealing with the routine minutiae of day-to-day research. But it can be the wrong way of judging a big, bold idea, the sort of idea that defines an entire research program. Sometimes, we have only weak evidence about whether such an idea is correct or not. We can meekly refuse to follow the idea, instead spending all our time squinting at the available evidence, trying to discern what's true. Or we can accept that no-one yet knows, and instead work hard on developing the big, bold idea, in the understanding that while we have no guarantee of success, it is only thus that our understanding advances.

With all that said, in its most optimistic form, I don't believe we'll ever find a simple algorithm for intelligence. To be more concrete, I don't believe we'll ever find a really short Python (or C or Lisp, or whatever) program - let's say, anywhere up to a thousand lines of code - which implements artificial intelligence. Nor do I think we'll ever find a really easily-described neural network that can implement artificial intelligence. But I do believe it's worth acting as though we could find such a program or network. That's the path to insight, and by pursuing that path we may one day understand enough to write a longer program or build a more sophisticated network which does exhibit intelligence. And so it's worth acting as though an extremely simple algorithm for intelligence exists.