August 11, 2008 2 Comments
“As people merge their identities with online resources and Borgify themselves, authoritarian elements like Wikipedia are necessary to sustain their belief in themselves as a discrete entity.”
That reminds me very much of Jaron Lanier’s One Half a Manifesto (which piece begins at the bottom of that linked page). Lanier argues that even the modest gains in artificial intelligence are mostly an illusion. It isn’t that computers are gaining human intelligence. Rather that humans are dumbing themselves down to accommodate computerized stupidity. (Emphasis mine.)
The whole enterprise of Artificial Intelligence is based on an intellectual mistake, and continues to expensively turn out poorly designed software as it is re-marketed under a new name for every new generation of programmers. Lately it has been called “intelligent agents”. Last time around it was called “expert systems”.
Let’s start at the beginning, when the idea first appeared. In Turing’s famous thought experiment, a human judge is asked to determine which of two correspondents is human, and which is machine. If the judge cannot tell, Turing asserts that the computer should be treated as having essentially achieved the moral and intellectual status of personhood.
Turing’s mistake was that he assumed that the only explanation for a successful computer entrant would be that the computer had become elevated in some way; by becoming smarter, more human. There is another, equally valid explanation of a winning computer, however, which is that the human had become less intelligent, less human-like.
An official Turing Test is held every year, and while the substantial cash prize has not been claimed by a program as yet, it will certainly be won sometime in the coming years. My view is that this event is distracting everyone from the real Turing Tests that are already being won. Real, though miniature, Turing Tests are happening all the time, every day, whenever a person puts up with stupid computer software.
For instance, in the United States, we organize our financial lives in order to look good to the pathetically simplistic computer programs that determine our credit ratings. We borrow money when we don’t need to, for example, to feed the type of data to the programs that we know they are programmed to respond to favorably.
In doing this, we make ourselves stupid in order to make the computer software seem smart. In fact we continue to trust the credit rating software even though there has been an epidemic of personal bankruptcies during a time of very low unemployment and great prosperity.
We have caused the Turing test to be passed. There is no epistemological difference between artificial intelligence and the acceptance of badly designed computer software.