Artificial Intelligence is all the buzz lately. I remember Back at University I did a module on neural networks, quite a few labs, and was especially interested in Expert Systems. I remember at the time writing essays on AI, even getting down to Homunculus arguments. However, the year 2000 was not right for AI. Competitions were being won by complex
if then else type brute force algorithms. It was a fascinating area of research though, and I saw huge possibilities. However, with all the latest progress, and hype, I still feel it has severe limitations.
As usual with human communcation the devil is in the terms and their definitions. Lets go over some of these first:
- facts, information, and skills aquired through experience or education
- the aquisition of knowledge or skills through study, eperience etc
- The ability to aquire and apply knowledge and skills
- knowledge or perception of a situation or fact
- The state of being aware of and responsive to one's surroundings
My initial gripe with AI was to do with consciousness. We do not know what human consciousness is. And we probably are a long way off understanding it. However, as per the definition of 'conscious' above, it evades any philosophical pondering. The definitions of 'awareness' and 'conscious' are sufficiently vague and seem to follow the 'scientific' thinking that everything is stimulous-response - that we are all bumbling aggregates of cells with no self determined thought; chemical reactions on legs.
There are tonnes of electronic sensors, for example motion, gas, heat, distance, light, and so many other types. These devices, combined with software, provide a stimulus-response type of activity coordinated by an entity. With working products like self driving cars, airoplane autopilot, even home automation, we can say these machines are 'aware and respond to their surroundings'. As per the definitions above, here we really have artificial intelligence.
Neural networks are just statistical analysis. There. I said it. However, isn't that what a mind is anyway? (see how I used 'mind' and not 'brain'). What does the mind do? It observes, compares current scenarios to previous similar scenarios, provides possible decisions and poses possible outcomes in the future, with the sole purpose of keeping the organism alive and, possibly reproduction of itself.
There is fuzzyness in all of the above. There is never, ever, a 100% correct answer. The mind would therefore look for the most positive effect (towards it's own survival) and least destructive to itself (destruction could be directed towards another entity, such as in killing an animal or foe).
Could you replecate a mind like this, as described above artificially? Totally possible. But would it have any identity? I would say an emphatic no.
Why no? Because of your individual identity. Some would ask 'is identity real?', or some would say that my idea of my own idea of identity is merely a delusion. Well, my own sense of self is very real to me. Part of science is empirical, so my awareness of self is my scientific proof.
Looking up the definitions above left me with an uneasy feeling. I do remember looking at these definitions 20-30 years ago and the current definitions didn't quite match my previous understanding. I feel a 'dumbing down' is afoot, and judging by the aforementioned definitions of 'conscious' and 'awareness', these seem to me to be limitations in the English language.
I thought I would go ahead and check these defintions again, this time with a very old dictionary, Websters 1828 American dictionary.
- A clear and certain perception of that which exists, or of truth and fact; the perception of the connection and agreement, or disagreement and repugnancy of our ideas
- The knowledge of principles or facts received by instruction or study
- Understanding; skill
- The knowledge of sensations and mental operations, or of what passes in ones own mind; the act of the mind which makes known an internal object. CONSCIOUSNESS of our sensation, and consciousness of our existence, seem to be simultaneous. CONSCIOUSNESS must be an essential attribute of spirit
- Possessing the faculty or power of knowing ones own thoughts or mental operations. Thus, man is a conscious being
This is fascinating.
Look at how they describe consciousness. You know who you are now, are aware of sensations, current mental operations, thinking thoughts, alert in the current time stream.
What is really interesting is that the derivation of 'intelligent' is: early 16th century: from Latin intelligent- ‘understanding’, from the verb intelligere, variant of intellegere ‘understand’, from inter ‘between’ + legere ‘choose’. Get that, 'choose between'. The power of choice. Choice does not necessarily come from facts, data, education, or even random. There is personal choice, which is not neccessarily made from past experience or education. And also, one of the secondary definitions is 'A spiritual being; as a created intelligence. It is believed that the universe is peopled with innumerable superior intelligences'. This is from a dictionary from the early 19th century! Sounds more like science fiction from the 20th!
As far as I can see, there has been serious dumbing down of 'intelligence'. To me 'science' has taken a huge step backwards. There seems to be a real pushback concerning anything 'outside the box'. The fact of the matter is we are lost. Big style. Clinging on to something 'real', or denying ones existance and justifying it by 'science has proven we are chemicals reacting' is just utter irresponsibility, and in my opinion, real delusion. For gods sake there is something that cannot be explained away by 'just chemical reactions', so please can someone do research into it? I even heard a developer once say that 'emotions are not logical'. Who says emotions are a subset of logic? Life is not a subset of logic either.
'AI' can lead to some great things. I'm all for learning it. But don't dumb down life. If you think you are a collony of cells, I would suggest getting to know yourself, really getting to know yourself.