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Dec
27th
Thu
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David Deutsch on Artificial Intelligence

“What is needed is nothing less than a breakthrough in philosophy, a theory that explains how brains create explanations. (…)

What distinguishes human brains from all other physical systems is qualitatively different from all other functionalities, and cannot be specified in the way that all other attributes of computer programs can be. It cannot be programmed by any of the techniques that suffice for writing any other type of program. Nor can it be achieved merely by improving their performance at tasks that they currently do perform, no matter by how much. Why? I call the core functionality in question creativity: the ability to produce new explanations. (…)

What is needed is nothing less than a breakthrough in philosophy, a new epistemological theory that explains how brains create explanatory knowledge and hence defines, in principle, without ever running them as programs, which algorithms possess that functionality and which do not. (…)

The truth is that knowledge consists of conjectured explanations — guesses about what really is (or really should be, or might be) out there in all those worlds. Even in the hard sciences, these guesses have no foundations and don’t need justification. Why? Because genuine knowledge, though by definition it does contain truth, almost always contains error as well. So it is not ‘true’ in the sense studied in mathematics and logic. Thinking consists of criticising and correcting partially true guesses with the intention of locating and eliminating the errors and misconceptions in them, not generating or justifying extrapolations from sense data. And therefore, attempts to work towards creating an AGI that would do the latter are just as doomed as an attempt to bring life to Mars by praying for a Creation event to happen there. (…)

Present-day software developers could straightforwardly program a computer to have ‘self-awareness’ if they wanted to. But it is a fairly useless ability.” “
David Deutsch, British physicist at the University of Oxford, Creative blocks, aeon, Oct 3, 2012.
See also: ☞ David Deutsch: A new way to explain explanation, Lapidarium notes
Sep
22nd
Sat
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The ultraintelligent machine… is a machine that believes people cannot think.
Irving John Good, British mathematician who worked as a cryptologist at Bletchley Park with Alan Turing (1916-2009), cited in George Dyson, Turing’s Cathedral, Pantheon, 2012, p. 262.
Jun
22nd
Fri
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What Darwin’s theory of evolution teaches us about Alan Turing and artificial intelligence

Alan Turing created a new world of science and technology, setting the stage for solving one of the most baffling puzzles remaining to science, the mind-body problem, with an even shorter declarative sentence in the middle of his 1936 paper on computable numbers: "It is possible to invent a single machine which can be used to compute any computable sequence." (…)

A good way of understanding Turing’s revolutionary idea about computation is to put it in juxtaposition with Darwin's about evolution. (…) What Darwin and Turing had both discovered, in their different ways, was the existence of competence without comprehension. (…)

Turing, like Darwin, broke down the mystery of intelligence (or Intelligent Design) into what we might call atomic steps of dumb happenstance, which, when accumulated by the millions, added up to a sort of pseudo-intelligence. (…)

We still haven’t arrived at “real” understanding in robots, but we are getting closer. That, at least, is the conviction of those of us inspired by Turing’s insight. The trickle-down theorists are sure in their bones that no amount of further building will ever get us to the real thing. They think that a Cartesian res cogitans, a thinking thing, cannot be constructed out of Turing’s building blocks. And creationists are similarly sure in their bones that no amount of Darwinian shuffling and copying and selecting could ever arrive at (real) living things. They are wrong, but one can appreciate the discomfort that motivates their conviction.

Turing’s strange inversion of reason, like Darwin’s, goes against the grain of millennia of earlier thought. If the history of resistance to Darwinian thinking is a good measure, we can expect that long into the future, long after every triumph of human thought has been matched or surpassed by “mere machines,” there will still be thinkers who insist that the human mind works in mysterious ways that no science can comprehend.” “
Daniel C. Dennett, American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist, professor and co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, 'A Perfect and Beautiful Machine': What Darwin's Theory of Evolution Reveals About Artificial Intelligence, The Atlantic, June 22, 2012.
Mar
19th
Mon
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The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.
B. F. Skinner , American behaviorist, author, inventor, social philosopher and poet (1904-1990), Contingencies of Reinforcement: A Theoretical Analysis, 1969
Mar
25th
Fri
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Mark Changizi: The path to enhancing our brains is not to change or add to it, but to harness it in altogether novel fashions

“As I recently discussed in a “manifesto” of sorts, the key to our future human development will be technology that harnesses our brain’s evolved functional powers. That’s how we got to be the humans we take ourselves to be today, so radically different from our essentially genetically identical Homo sapiens ancestors. Chief among those differences are writing, speech, and music (arguably the pinnacle of the arts) – I argue in my research and books that cultural selection has acted over time to shape these core artifacts to fit our brains like a glove, redirecting brilliant ancestral powers into modern ones. We read, for example, not because we evolved by natural selection to read, but because writing culturally evolved to be shaped like the fundamental contour combinations found in natural scenes (I call it nature-harnessing), just what our visual system is optimized to process.

This “harnessing humans” vision is an intrinsically humanistic one, and is in stark contrast to the “sci-fi” flavor of the artificial-brains prognosticators. In fact, rather than sci-fi, my viewpoint is best illustrated by another genre of fiction: fantasy, and, in particular, the magic found within it. (…)

The biologically innate powers hundreds of millions of years of evolution gave us are like magic. They are ancient, inscrutable and potent, and should be studied, safeguarded and revered. And just as you can’t beat magic with human invention, we cannot hope to out-engineer our brains and bodies.

The human condition has been granted a finite number of “magical powers,” and the best route to moving forward is to exploit those powers in new ways. The path to enhancing our brains is not to change or add to it, but to harness it in altogether novel fashions.

In my “manifesto” I suggested that via understanding how culture harnessed us we are in a better position to intentionally harness our brains more effectively, with the hope of tapping into powers far beyond that which any artificial brain is likely to wield for a long, long time." "
Mark Changizi (evolutionary neurobiologist, cognitive scientist, aiming to grasp the ultimate foundations underlying why we think, feel and see as we do), Harnessing Humans, Forbes, March 25, 2011. See also: Mark Changizi on Humans, Version 3.0
Mar
18th
Fri
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" "If you build a machine that makes connections between everything, accumulates all the data in the world, and you then harness all available minds to collectively teach it where the meaningful connections and meaningful data are (Who is searching Whom?) while implementing deceptively simple algorithms that reinforce meaningful connections while physically moving, optimizing and replicating the data structures accordingly - if you do all this you will, from highly economical (yes, profitable) position arrive at a result - an intelligence — that is “not as far off as people think.” “
George Dyson, scientific historian cited in Kevin Kelly, Evidence of a Global SuperOrganism, The Technium, October 24, 2008.
Mar
3rd
Thu
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Samuel Butler on “mechanical life” (1863)

“Our present business lies with considerations which may somewhat tend to humble our pride and to make us think seriously of the future prospects of the human race. If we revert to the earliest primordial types of mechanical life, to the lever, the wedge, the inclined plane, the screw and the pulley, or (for analogy would lead us one step further) to that one primordial type from which all the mechanical kingdom has been developed. (…)

We refer to the question: What sort of creature man’s next successor in the supremacy of the earth is likely to be. We have often heard this debated; but it appears to us that we are ourselves creating our own successors; we are daily adding to the beauty and delicacy of their physical organisation; we are daily giving them greater power and supplying by all sorts of ingenious contrivances that self-regulating, self-acting power which will be to them what intellect has been to the human race. In the course of ages we shall find ourselves the inferior race. Inferior in power, inferior in that moral quality of self-control, we shall look up to them as the acme of all that the best and wisest man can ever dare to aim at. (…)

Day by day, however, the machines are gaining ground upon us; day by day we are becoming more subservient to them; more men are daily bound down as slaves to tend them, more men are daily devoting the energies of their whole lives to the development of mechanical life. The upshot is simply a question of time, but that the time will come when the machines will hold the real supremacy over the world and its inhabitants is what no person of a truly philosophic mind can for a moment question. (…)

For the present we shall leave this subject, which we present gratis to the members of the Philosophical Society. Should they consent to avail themselves of the vast field which we have pointed out, we shall endeavour to labour in it ourselves at some future and indefinite period.” “
Samuel Butler (signed Cellarius), Darwin among the Machines, The Press newspaper on 13 June 1863 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The article raised the possibility that machines were a kind of “mechanical life” undergoing constant evolution, and that eventually machines might supplant humans as the dominant species. See also: A First Year in Canterbury Settlement With Other Early Essays
Feb
23rd
Wed
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Mark Changizi on Humans, Version 3.0.


The next giant leap in human evolution may not come from new fields like genetic engineering or artificial intelligence, but rather from appreciating our ancient brains.

“It is this unheralded mechanism that will usher in the next stage of human, giving future people exquisite powers we do not currently possess, powers worthy of natural selection itself. And, importantly, it doesn’t require us to transform into cyborgs or bio-engineered lab rats. It merely relies on our natural bodies and brains functioning as they have for millions of years.

This mystery mechanism of human transformation is neuronal recycling, coined by neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene, wherein the brain’s innate capabilities are harnessed for altogether novel functions.

This view of the future of humankind is grounded in an appreciation of the biologically innate powers bestowed upon us by hundreds of millions of years of evolution. This deep respect for our powers is sometimes lacking in the sciences, where many are taught to believe that our brains and bodies are taped-together, far-from-optimal kluges. (…)

These and other inborn capabilities we take for granted are not kluges, they’re not “good enough,” and they’re more than merely smart. They’re astronomically brilliant in comparison to anything humans are likely to invent for millennia. (…)

Like all animal brains, human brains are not general-purpose universal learning machines, but, instead, are intricately structured suites of instincts optimized for the environments in which they evolved. To harness our brains, we want to let the brain’s brilliant mechanisms run as intended—i.e., not to be twisted. Rather, the strategy is to twist Y into a shape that the brain does know how to process. (…)

There is a very good reason to be optimistic that the next stage of human will come via the form of adaptive harnessing, rather than direct technological enhancement: It has already happened.

We have already been transformed via harnessing beyond what we once were. We’re already Human 2.0, not the Human 1.0, or Homo sapiens, that natural selection made us. We Human 2.0’s have, among many powers, three that are central to who we take ourselves to be today: writing, speech, and music (the latter perhaps being the pinnacle of the arts). Yet these three capabilities, despite having all the hallmarks of design, were not a result of natural selection, nor were they the result of genetic engineering or cybernetic enhancement to our brains. Instead, and as I argue in both The Vision Revolution and my forthcoming Harnessed, these are powers we acquired by virtue of harnessing, or neuronal recycling. (…)

After all, the change from Human 1.0 to 2.0 is nothing short of universe-rattling: It transformed a clever ape into a world-ruling technological philosopher.

Although the step from Human 1.0 to 2.0 was via cultural selection, not via explicit human designers, does the transformation to Human 3.0 need to be entirely due to a process like cultural evolution, or might we have any hope of purposely guiding our transformation? (…)

The point is, most science fiction gets all this wrong. While the future may be radically “futuristic,” with our descendants having breathtaking powers we cannot fathom, it probably won’t be because they evolved into something new, or were genetically modified, or had AI-chip enhancements. Those powerful beings will simply be humans, like you and I. But they’ll have been nature-harnessed in ways we cannot anticipate, the magic latent within each of us used for new, brilliant Human 3.0 capabilities.” “
Mark Changizi (cognitive scientist, author), Humans, Version 3.0., SEED.com, Feb 23, 2011 See also: Prof. Stanislas Dehaene, "How do humans acquire novel cultural skills? The neuronal recycling model", LSE Institute | Nicod, (Picture source: Rzeczpospolita)
Feb
12th
Sat
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Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an "intelligence explosion," and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make.
Irving John Good, mathematician who worked as a cryptologist at Bletchley Park with Alan Turing
Jan
8th
Sat
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Something of the previous state, however, survives every change. This is called in the language of cybernetics (which took it form the language of machines) feedback, the advantages of learning from experience and of having developed reflexes.
Guy Davenport, American writer, translator, illustrator, painter, intellectual, and teacher (1927-2005)
Sep
28th
Tue
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Chris Arkenberg: while we augment & extend our abilities through machines, machines learn more about the world through us

“It can be said that while we augment & extend our abilities through machines, machines learn more about the world through us. The web 2.0 social media revolution and the semantic web of structured data that is presently intercalating into it has brought machine algorithms into direct relationship with human behavior, watching our habits and tracking our paths through the digital landscape.

These sophisticated marketing and research tools are learning more and more about what it means to be human, and the extended sensorium of the instrumented world is giving them deep insight into the run-time processes of civilization & nature. The spark of self-awareness has not yet animated these systems but there is an uneasy agreement that we will continue to assist in their cybernetic development, modifying their instructions to become more and more capable & efficient, perhaps to the point of being indistinguishable from, or surpassing, their human creators.” “
Chris Arkenberg, The Cybernetic Self, Polytopia, Sep 23, 2010
Sep
24th
Fri
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It is far more useful to view computational science as part of the problem, rather than the solution. The problem is understanding how humans can have invented explicit, algorithmically driven machines when our brains do not operate in this way. The solution, if it ever comes, will be found by looking inside ourselves.
Merlin Donald, cited in Gilles Fauconnier & Mark Turner, The Way We Think. Conceptual Blending & the Mind’s Hidden Complexities, Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group, 2002, p.3.
May
26th
Wed
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Jeff Hawkins on intelligent machines

“Exponential growth requires the exponential consumption of resources (matter, energy, and time), and there are always limits to this. Why should we think intelligent machines would be different? We will build machines that are more ‘intelligent’ than humans, and this might happen quickly, but there will be no singularity, no runaway growth in intelligence. There will be no single godlike intelligent machine. Like today’s computers, intelligent machines will come in many shapes and sizes and be applied to many different types of problems.

Intelligent machines need not be anything like humans, emotionally and physically. An extremely intelligent machine need not have any of the emotions a human has, unless we go out of our way to make it so. No intelligent machine will ‘wake up’ one day and say ‘I think I will enslave my creators.’ Similar fears were expressed when the steam engine was invented. It won’t happen. The age of intelligent machines is starting. Like all previous technical revolutions, it will accelerate as more and more people work on it and as the technology improves. There will be no singularity or point in time where the technology itself runs away from us.” “