When I hear computer nerds bring up the idea of a technological ‘singularity’, or political junkies talk about ‘history repeating itself’, a part of me dies inside. I’ve spoken positively about nonsensical conceptions before, but these ideas aren’t just nonsensical. They’re complete bullshit.
The nerds and junkies (Which I’m reluctantly a member of) that promote this shit aren’t actually concerned with technology rising up against us, or history “repeating itself”. In fact, I’d argue that they want these things to happen. And therefore they become self-fulfilling prophecies. They want it to happen because it allows them to win arguments (‘Trump is the new Hitler, lol”) or they enable nerdist fantasies to come to life (“Skynet will one day rule the Earth!”).
I’ll be the first to admit, John Searle occasionally pisses me off. I don’t know why. I usually classify him as one of the characters that contributed to the downfall of philosophy. YET, I almost always agree with him.
Searle is best known for the ‘Chinese Room’ thought experiment which argues against strong artificial intelligence. While his summary is correct…strong artificial intelligence is bullshit…the argument itself has never sat right with me. The fundamental question underlying the argument is: “what part of the room understands Chinese?”. And we have to surmise that computers only use syntactical functions to solve problems, therefore negating any sense that a machine has genuine intelligence.
HUMAN intelligence requires both syntactical AND semantical reasoning or functioning. (Apologies for such a simplistic summary of the thought experiment, but I’m trying to get to my own arguments)
But the reason why the Chinese Room doesn’t really sit well is because (if I’m taking Searle’s reasoning to the extreme), we can apply the fundamental question to human intelligence as well. If you’re reading this, I’ll take the assumption that you speak English. But what part of the brain actually knows English? If we split open the language centers of the brain, will we find English actually IN the brain? Or is it just a bunch of syntactical functions that produce an understanding of English? Therefore the brain is really more than just ‘the man in the room’, but is also the man, the room, AND the instruction book? Right?
Am I missing something here?
(By the way, I highly suggest that you watch the video above, which provides a lot of helpful information regarding epistemology and ontology.)
But Searle is basically arguing that we have nothing to fear from STRONG AI itself, and it’s likely impossible altogether. IF technology is to rise up and enslave humanity, it will be because some asshole somewhere programmed it to do so. So again, the biggest enemy to mankind is still…mankind. But IF strong AI is to exist, it probably does already and we can make the argument that consciousness itself is hardwired into reality. And that argument would seem to support panpsychism.
I think I’m going off the rails here.
MY biggest argument against not only artificial intelligence but intelligence ITSELF is the assumption that humanity is universal. What do I mean by that?
Take the cartoon BoJack Horseman. In that world, animals and humans co-exist because (presumably) all animals evolved to the point of comparable intelligence. Clearly, this is just a cartoon, but we take the same intuition of this world when we try to understand the nature of intelligence itself. We intuitively believe that if all animals have comparable intelligence to humans, that we would all perceive the world in the exact same way.
This is why computer scientists and engineers are trying to replicate the human brain, because THEY BELIEVE, if they can reconstruct it then they can create artificial intelligence. And that brand of intelligence could go toe-to-toe with the human kind. Intelligence itself, in the sense of knowing things and completing functions, might be possible (and IS possible). But this is only addressing the problem in a behaviorist sense.
We haven’t even adequately answered the question of what intelligence is and what role consciousness plays in it. The belief is that if scientists can reconstruct the brain, then we would be able to answer these questions; that if we construct a mind made up of different material and evolution, suddenly we can reconstruct a conscious being that would theoretically be able to replace humans.
It’s the idea that consciousness is a readily available substance within the universe, and when its achieved, it’s all universal. It’s a fiction that we even apply to extraterrestrial intelligence. Because we are humans, and we understand OUR intelligence, then this must be something that all comparable species must possess. It’s a massive intuitive leap and cartoon logic that alarmingly permeates a good deal of intelligentsia.
Consciousness is, in all likelihood, found in other species (and possibly non-carbon based entities). HOWEVER, human consciousness and intelligence can ONLY be found in HUMANS. It is, in fact, the fabric that makes US humans. We have a poor understanding of what intelligence itself is. We take the assumption that our objectives, needs, thoughts, drives, and other aspects of humanity are things that all intelligence species have. BUT, we fail to consider that perhaps intelligence isn’t a thing that can be found outside of a mind.
In fact, intelligence is contingent upon a mind. And it cannot be extracted then placed into other minds. Without minds, the universe is just information. But when a mind evolves to process that information, that process is contingent on the chemistry, biology, evolution, and God-knows what else that the brain (or processing center) is based on. Other brains that are based on the same chemistry, biology, evolution, etc. can understand one another (or they can understand what it means TO BE the other). BUT intelligence is contingent on the processing centers of the brain, and (in all likelihood) is not something that is quantified outside of the brain.
It does not exist independent of us. We might be able to configure the behaviorist aspects of the mind (or something that can conform to the Turing Test), but that does not necessarily mean that the machine is THINKING independently. And if it is, that does not necessarily mean that its thinking is identical to HUMAN THINKING. Therefore, any thinking machine (or extra-terrestrial being) would not be bound to the same human existential questions or limitations. (Or it’s a massive assumption to believe it is)
This is, of course, troubling because it appears that we can’t venture out of the mind to understand the world. Or it means that we can’t construct intelligent machines. Or it means that we are alone in the universe. But, perhaps worse of all, this could possibly mean that everything in perception is just a construction of the mind. Our logic and science are not concrete and are only projected onto the world. Therefore we have to resort back to an extreme form of idealism.
Personally, I really don’t give a shit (I want to deny objectivity!). But to avoid the title of ‘insane person’, I hope to avoid the pitfall of idealism in future posts.
But if I am to be honest with myself, I don’t think that AI is impossible. But, if one is to argue in favor of it, they have to include a lot of different assumptions into their argument….arguments that they might think insane. But I’m getting off track here…