The UK Independent is noting how Stephen Hawking says of the Film on AI, Transcendence — plot summary here at wiki, that ‘Transcendence looks at the implications of artificial intelligence – but are we taking AI seriously enough?’
First off, I think “implications” is probably over the top — we seem to be more looking at materialist yearnings for eternity, resurrection and paradise.
(As in, on the presumption that intelligence boils down to evolutionarily written software running on wetware neural networks, then we can upload ourselves to a machine of sufficient sophistication, and reconstitute our bodies as we will, then amplify intelligence and create paradise. Anyone who understands why power tends to corrupt will understand why even were that possible, all but certainly, paradise would not happen, and a quasi-eternal power drunk madman of effectively unlimited power would create a disaster, not a utopia.)
Where also, the “strong” concept of Artificial intelligence pivots on the notion that machines can be made to effectively mimic and surpass human intelligence, not only in narrow areas, but eventually globally.
As wiki summarises at 101 level:
The central problems (or goals) of AI research include reasoning, knowledge, planning, learning, natural language processing (communication), perception and the ability to move and manipulate objects. General intelligence (or “strong AI“) is still among the field’s long term goals. Currently popular approaches include statistical methods, computational intelligence and traditional symbolic AI. There are a large number of tools used in AI, including versions of search and mathematical optimization, logic, methods based on probability and economics, and many others.
The field was founded on the claim that a central property of humans, intelligence—the sapience of Homo sapiens—”can be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it.” This raises philosophical issues about the nature of the mind and the ethics of creating artificial beings endowed with human-like intelligence, issues which have been addressed by myth, fiction and philosophy since antiquity. Artificial intelligence has been the subject of tremendous optimism but has also suffered stunning setbacks. Today it has become an essential part of the technology industry, providing the heavy lifting for many of the most challenging problems in computer science.
The basic problem with this?
It confuses computation with contemplation, and effectively invites the assumption that consciousness will emerge from sufficiently complex computation. That brings up the point that a rock has no dreams:
A conscious, self aware entity is just that, even as to be appeared to redly is not equal to having sensors detect light of say 680 nm. To compute “light per sensor report in the red range” so output or store: red, is not the same. And, despite many attempts, we have not got anything like an idea of how to specify the difference, to bridge the computation-contemplation gap.
That is itself a point we should reflect on together.
But the movie plot brings out a much more troubling set of issues — once we do a bit of simple decoding.
Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is a scientist motivated by curiosity about the nature of the universe, part of a team working to create a sentient computer. [–> computation-cognition gap, and the materialist hope to create an informational soul] He predicts that such a computer will create a technological singularity, where everything will change, an event which Will calls “Transcendence”. [–> We are sentient, and use the internet, so why has this not happened already?] His wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), who he loves deeply, supports him in his efforts. However, a gang of luddite terrorists [–> As in, guess who are the likely enemies of science, progress and utopia?] shoot Will with a bullet laced with radioactive materials which will quickly kill him.
In desperation, Evelyn comes up with a plan to upload Will’s consciousness into the quantum computer [–> uploading the soul . . . as software] that the project is working on. His best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany), also a researcher, questions the wisdom of this choice.
Will’s likeness survives his body’s death [–> as in the great materialist hope for eternity beyond bodily death, which is itself revealing] and requests that he be connected to the Internet so as to grow in capability and knowledge [–> And, the collectives in a great university do not constitute a transformational critical mass? No wonder the film was criticised as lacking in logic]. Max panics, insisting that the computer intelligence is not Will. Evelyn forcibly ejects Max from the building and connects the computer intelligence to the Internet.
Max is almost immediately confronted by Bree (Kate Mara), the leader of Revolutionary Independence From Technology (R.I.F.T.), the extremist group which carried out the terror attacks on the AI scientists and laboratories. [–> As in, we have to displace terrorism and project it to groups that better fit our expectations and fears and frankly hates] Max is captured by the terrorists and eventually persuaded to join them. The government is also deeply suspicious of what Will’s uploaded person will do, and plan to use the terrorists to take the blame for the government’s actions to stop Will.
Will uses his new-found intelligence to build a technological utopia [–> And why aren’t unis such paradises already?] in a remote desert town called Brightwood, but even Evelyn, who joins him there, begins to suspect his motives . . .
So now, we see the thinly disguised ideological morality play.
We need to ask some very serious questions as to why materialists so often view those who question their agendas and fantasies, as against science, against progress and the likely locus of terrorism etc? (Compare that fantasy with what is going on in The Ukraine and elsewhere, noting how the best and brightest seem to be yet again caught flat-footed.)
Food for thought. END
27 Replies to “Transcendence and the materialist hope for eternity, resurrection and paradise . . . but computation is not contemplation”
Is the mind “nothing but” software written by blind chance and necessity chosen by incremental reproductive trial and error, and running on neural networks in the brain?
There’s no limit to their madness. They seem to vie with each other for the ‘top spot’.
Nice article. There is no doubt in my view that we will have general intelligent machines that are as sophisticated as the human brain. However, regardless of how conscious they may appear to us, conscious computers will always be a myth. The idea that we can in principle copy or upload our brain’s wetware onto a machine and thereby become immortal is pure superstition. IMO, singularitarianism is just another chicken feather voodoo religion that is gaining popularity on the strength of its promise of eternal life. The only problem is, it’s not even wrong.
That second picture… I don’t get what the point it’s trying to make is about rocks and brains in vats and stuff.
Correct me if I am wrong but how can a machine be smarter than the one who builds it. Sure we have expert systems that use logic to come out with better decisions but all of that has to be programmed beforehand in the form of rules by faulty human intelligence.
Also, isn’t all of that knowledge still just computational?
Speaking of which, wouldn’t a computer that’s the size of earth still just be a computer, albeit one that could probably play Crises 1, 2 3, F.E.A.R., Half-Life 2, Skyrim, WOW, Gary’s Mod, Team Fortress 2, and a whole host of other game programs that require a lot of processing power?
Well, being smart is a consequence of being able to learn. If a computer with enough memory storage and the ability to learn spends more time studying a subject than its builder, the computer will be smarter in that subject.
VG: The pic shows two key things. First, a rock is mechanical not self-aware, second that someone who is aware of himself (even if in a delusion) cannot be mistaken about that self-awareness. This underscores the gulf between computation and contemplation, something many so often overlook. KF
PS: VG & Mapou, can a computer genuinely learn [and as a component of that reason, evaluate and draw conclusions regarding warrant), or are we slipping into equivocation? [Think of this in light of GIGO and the bug that led to recall of early Pentiums.]
KF notes that, “…as in the great materialist hope for eternity beyond bodily death, which is itself revealing]”.
I can’t figure this out. Materialists deny life after death from the Christian perspective (heaven/hell) and state that once we’re gone, we’re gone. Why try to find anything beyond bodily death? Just accept that death is a natural part of life, right?
What happened with GIGO and the bug that led to the recall of early Pentiums?
I do research in AI and I can assure you that there is no reason that a powerful enough computer cannot learn to comprehend its environment as well as humans and animals. GIGO will not be an issue because a learning machine’s knowledge will not come from the programmer but will be built directly from data arriving from its sensors.
n my view, intelligence does not require consciousness or a spirit. It’s a physical process based entirely on the temporal relationships between arriving sensory signals.
Well, it’s official. My sci-fi/fantasy teacher is pushing the whole warfare hypothesis and all that stuff, and seems to suggest that the ‘enlightenment’ birthed the scientific method and all that. I’ll tell everything he’s said and ask for clarification at a later time.
So… does that mean you’re a machine then?
I believe every human being is part machine, part spirit. Future machines will be powerfully intelligent, even more than humans in many respects. However, they will have no appreciation or love for beauty and the arts. For that, you need a spirit.
So… you’re equating contemplation with computation then?
VunderGuy, I’m not sure what the word ‘contemplation’ means exactly in the context of the OP. Is it like meditation or thinking? If so, yes. I believe that a computer can meditate. Sure, we’re not talking about conscious meditation but a machine does have the ability to scan through event sequences in memory and come up with new insights about the past and predictions about the future. IMO, when true AI is revealed (it won’t be too long now), it will take both Christians and atheists by surprise.
F/N: As a clue:
>> con•tem•plate (?k?n t?m?ple?t, -t?m-)
v. -plat•ed, -plat•ing. v.t.
1. to look at or view with continued attention; observe thoughtfully.
2. to consider thoroughly; think deeply about.
3. to have in view as a purpose; intend: to contemplate bribery.
4. to have in view as a future event: to contemplate buying a new car.
5. to think studiously; meditate; consider deliberately.
Contemplation, as actual knowledge is a subjective state with objective reality, as we can perceive by introspection. The denial of this, ends in absurdity. Knowledge, here is a state of well warranted, credibly true belief, entailing warrant, a process that requires contemplation.
Rocks have no dreams, Si-based chips are rocks, they compute blindly and will output whatever is the mechanical consequence of their inputs and stored info, they do not evaluate they have no basis for freedom to choose to follow what makes sense and reject what does not.
And more, much more.
VG: Garbage in, garbage out. There was an error in the masks for the chips that made some computations go wrong, and there was a recall. The chips of course acted in accord with the set up systems and forces, blindly and without thought or reasoning. We are seeing a tendency to anthropomorphise the circuitry in computers, and to overdraw parallels between neural networks of cells and machinery. I suggest a look at the Smith model, here as a basis for further thought. KF
Barb, eternity has been set in our hearts, and not even materialism can erase it. KF
PS: BTW, ever read the book, by Don Richardson?
KF writes, “PS: BTW, ever read the book, by Don Richardson?”
Don’t believe so. But thanks for giving me something to search for the next time I visit the library.
A treat and a treasure!
The hope for eternity? Heck, I just want to make it through this week!
I have to disagree with this. I feel that it would be a waste of time to go into a full debate to support my point at this time. Suffice it to say that there is intelligence and there is consciousness. The two are not the same.
Machines can already evaluate situations and make decisions based on their conclusions. However, I realize that there is nothing I can say to dissuade you from your position on the subject. Just wait a few more years and maybe less. Things are brewing in the AI field and I don’t mean in academia. True AI will come soon and from a very unexpected source.
Mapou, the machines make no decisions or evaluations. Change the code and just as blindly they would carry out rubbish regardless of consequences. KF
You are mistaken. Image and speech recognizers evaluate data all the time. This is how they recognize patterns. It makes no difference that the code was written by software designers. The brain’s code, too, was written by a genetic designer.
The same is true of the brain. This is why humans have all sort of mental illnesses. Something is wrong with their cerebral code.
Mapou: The machines and their software make no evaluations — and so forth. There is something about contemplative mental function that not only defies reduction to algorithm, but is irreducible to rocks and rock-phenomena. There is simply an unacknowledged qualitative difference. Maybe, one day we will create genuinely conscious mind, but that is going to require a breakthrough that we don’t begin to understand. KF
PS: Mental illness is often a worldview warping problem, not merely brain wiring etc breakdown. Issues of meaning are essentially involved, not just glorified manipulations of signals by machines that do the equivalent of summation and firing an output when a threshold is passed.