Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Archive for the tag “consciousness”

Oh, The Humanities!


In 1959, British scientist and novelist C. P. Snow gave a lecture titled “The Two Cultures.” He said British education was split into Science and the Humanities—and that the latter saw itself as superior.

His critique claimed the essentials of the Humanities were the central pillar of British education, and that most educated Brits thought the essentials of Science as little more than incidental.

The lecture became a widely read book, then a widely discussed controversy, and even another follow-up book. In less than sixty years, it is not only forgotten but the tables have completely turned.

Today not only is Science king, very few people (even outside of Science or Technology) see any value whatsoever in the Humanities. As I said in my post of July 20, 2015, “The nerds have won.”

However, having everything your own way is rarely the path to victory. I could just mention the name Midas, or point to the endless stories and fables meant to teach us a little wisdom.

I could give endless examples of how our technology could be improved by adding a human element. There are many related to programming in this blog. However, the big picture are the robots that will be built on the assumptions of artificial intelligence.

The intelligence sought by AI is abstract. AI scientists don’t see the distinct value of human intelligence. They think that somehow a machine can make decisions or solve problems without a concept of self, without consciousness—without empathy for humans.

Empathy is exactly what our current technology lacks. It can be learned directly from experience or indirectly from education. But it can only be learned, directly or indirectly, from humans.

Intelligence without empathy is merely data. How many times have you heard the phrase “thinking outside the box”? Einstein said, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” Using imagination is box-free thinking.

Wikipedia defines “[I]ntelligence … [as] logic, abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, learning, emotional knowledge, memory, planning, creativity and problem solving.” Yet, without imagination, all of these are useless.

Imagining how humans will respond is necessary for human-friendly technology. If we can apply our humanity, we can empathize how people will feel using a technological product or device. We can, if our science is balanced by our humanity.

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Romancing the Bot


You probably missed it, but back in 2008 International Chessmaster David Levy wrote a book titled Love and Sex with Robots. Not just a chess expert, Wikipedia says Levy has written over 40 books, mostly on computer chess.

I missed it, probably because even though I was heavily into the links between computing, consciousness, artificial intelligence, robots, and mind/brain, I saw nothing of his book or work. (Or even his 2005 book, Robots Unlimited: Life in a Virtual Age).

When I learned of this book last week, I wondered why I hadn’t heard of it in any book I’d read. Its Amazon page gave no references to any current work in the above-mentioned fields.

Last week was when I began Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together (2011) and found mention of Levy’s book. Since I was posting about real versus virtual, why not add human and non-human?

I’ve known sex robots were around the corner, but love? Is he kidding? Anyway, these sex devices are much closer to their blow-up predecessors than anything human-like. Or they were.

The makers of “the world’s first sex robot,” Roxxxy, say it’s no more than a “life-size rubber doll . . . designed to engage the owner with conversation rather than lifelike movement.”

Introduced at the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas this month, for less than ten large, Roxxy sounds far less satisfactory than the eponymous Her, of the new Spike Jonze movie.

No robot or real woman could compete with the fictional, idealized Her. This is a computer not only “designed to meet his every need,” but one that is also “human and intuitive.”

Human and intuitive software? Why put it in anything less than artificial humans? For “companions” you can touch and vice versa, see 1987’s Cherry 2000. So why talk with a computer?

The real question for us is, are we becoming less human by romancing the bot? Every year, we retreat further from the world. Can we continue and not become slaves of the machine?

Oh, did I forget to mention that David Levy believes these robots should not only be loved and laid but married! If he has his way, what’s next? Toasters going on strike for their rights?

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