Food For Thought Tech Takes

So who decides who are genii?

In the quest for artificial intelligence there is a question that trumps even the greatest of minds and shows the chauvinistic nature of man i.e. what is intelligence? Have you ever stopped and considered that what makes a person a person? What causes the very dangerous concept of I to come forward? If we look in nature we see that only a few organisms display the unique behavior that comes from being self aware a good example is chimpanzees even though they cannot speak (due to lack of fully developed vocal cords as in humans) they can and have been taught sign language and it has been found that they can have quite a good vocabulary up to 400 words! So should we give them human rights? They display emotions when forced into captivity pretty much like humans would do so should we free them from our zoos? What would a chimpanzee have to do to be considered a target worthy enough for religious conversion…

this is Roy... Roy the killbot
Creative Commons License photo credit: Don Solo
If one looks at computer they certainly possess characteristics that IQ tests tout as intelligent it is perfectly capable of handling large calculations which certainly every IQ test searches for it even can show judgment in logical matters and can do various other trick as fancy as the programmer who chooses to program it. Well almost certainly computers don’t make good conversational subjects but research is underway on this and seeing on the recent upsurge in popularity of “chat bots” which are a direct result of this research. Assuming that one day we make a computer that chatters away non stop rather like the stereotypical maids in popular culture. Many people will say it talks so what is the big deal it is not living and cant be intelligent as it has been programmed, but what if this artificial simulation could learn and get better at its conversational skills and personality traits day by day, would you call it intelligent or alive?

At the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems in Switzerland they have succeeded in creating robots that evolve and with a basic gene program the computer “grows” a brain for the physical robot. It is a direct application of genetics and in it there are several copies made with genetic mutations in the core gene program (there are even artificial chromosomes) and then the computer tests each one of them and the ones that fail are exterminated, the successes are bred and allowed to propagate and so on and so forth. However they do seem to hit a dead end and after a pint several strategies are repeated I think that it is due to lack of different stimulus, one never knows in the future programming may become out dated for robots and instead you would have the robot evolve for its environment its a fascinating possibility isn’t it? Think about it the next Mozart may be a machine but the question remains is it alive?

Now take a look at human geniuses having a high IQ score doesn’t necessarily guarantee success i.e. look at me I have an extremely high IQ score and yet i am at the bottom of the great cesspool called life, I have no shame admitting it I certainly do score below expectations at times simply due to the fact I don’t like the concept that I need to practice and mug up some “key words” i.e. I plan and pursue knowledge just for the sake of it no strings attached. However no matter what excuse and reason I conjure up the harsh numbers are still there (hmm perhaps I need to reevaluate my life). Take a look at RP Feynman he mastered calculus and formed his own notations by the age of 16, he never scored above 125 on an IQ test, I have a higher score than that but I know for sure that I am no where close to him. The unchallengeable fact remains no matter how you consider it, he remains a genius this is quite a slap on the face of psychometric testing, how accurate is it? A child who is able to compose and make exquisite piano pieces would be considered a genius in society but what if I tell you that he is mentally retarded would you consider him as intelligent? This question haunts me in my sleep am I truly as smart as they say I am, what if all of this is just a farce but I can’t do anything more than mere postulation.

Perhaps there is another aspect to intelligence, imagination the ability to think up of something based on known experiences and data or abstract thought but have you ever stopped and wondered what is it? Is it neuro-chemical stimulation of the brain, perhaps that is the answer but considering the fact that we do not simply know enough about the brain to tell where and how those memories are stored that give you the taste of your favorite dish the smell of a rose so on and so forth. Another equally puzzling aspect is the ability to view 3D objects in our imagination to run a “movie” in your head clearly there is also some stimulation of the optic nerve or at least the area where it is processed in a portion called the occipital lobe, don’t worry my friends it’s just a fancy Latin name for something thats like a cat you see? The eye pulls its tail and it mews in our head except for the fact there is no cat……

So to cut a long story short we don’t know enough but what I do know is that our imagination is a fundamental aspect of our intellect what separates the different striations of the humankind but could a machine have an imagination, could it dream? Clearly this is not only a mathematical, neurological, electronic and a programming problem but a deeply philosophical one, what does one define as dreaming perhaps it is what happens to me in the French class? Well you see these questions in the end are often reduced to absurdity or Reductio ad absurdum so one clearly has to be careful of the infinite regress that is often the symbol of such questions, I can go on all day boring you with a question that leads to another question I have experienced it a lot in daily life and let me tell you it really spoils the day. I admit that I don’t know deeply enough about the brain to comment on this topic without going into to the regress.

So in the end all of the arguments and questions fall into a single pit fall i.e. what is life and what is intelligence? To be frank with you even I don’t know the answer, I can do nothing better than a blind guess but what I do know is that humans should stop looking at themselves as the privileged ones we are at the end of the day not much different from the machines except we are the creations of natural evolution. Thus these debates do serve a purpose it gives a sense of perspective and hope that all is not lost in the arrogance of mankind at least we are considering these questions, to me this is the most important point of all. So please whoever has the patience to read this post understand that don’t take everything said by the “experts” at face value they themselves often don’t know what they are talking about and at the end I would say that there are no “geniuses” (the correct plural is genii)  but simply people who choose to exercise their grey cells and those who don’t…

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