Intelligence is not Artificial

Why the Singularity is not Coming any Time Soon And Other Meditations on the Post-Human Condition and the Future of Intelligence

by piero scaruffi
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(These are excerpts from my book "Intelligence is not Artificial")

The Body

A lot of what books on machine intelligence say is based on a brain-centered view of the human being. I may agree that my brain is the most important organ of my body (i'm ok with transplanting just about any organ of my body except my brain). However, this is probably not what evolution had in mind. The brain is one of the many organs designed to keep the body alive so that the body can find a mate and make children. The brain is not the goal but one of the tools to achieve that goal.

Focusing only on mental activities when comparing humans and machines is a categorical mistake. Humans do have a brain but don't belong to the category of brains: they belong to the category of animals, which are mainly recognizable by their bodies. Therefore, one should compare machines and humans based on bodily actions and not just on the basis of printouts, screenshots and files. Playing a match of chess with the world champion of chess is actually easy. It is much harder for a machine to do any of the things that we routinely do in our home (that our bodies do). Playing chess is actually much easier than playing soccer with a group of children.

Furthermore, there's the meaning of action. The children who play soccer actually enjoy it. They scream, they are competitive, they cry if they lose, they can be mean, they can be violent. There is passion in what we do. Will an android that plays decent soccer in 3450 (that's a realistic date in my opinion) also have all of that? Let's take something simpler, that might happen in 50 or 100 years: at some point we'll have machines capable of reading a novel; but will they understand what they are reading? Is it the same "reading" that i do? This is not only a question about the self-awareness of the machine but about what the machine will do with the text it reads. I can find analogies with other texts, be inspired to write something myself, send the text to a friend, file it in a category that interests me. There is a follow-up to it. Machines that read a text and simply produce an abstract representation of its content (and we are very far from the day when they will be able to do so) are useful only for the human who will use it.

The same considerations apply to all the corporeal activities that are more than simple movements of limbs.

The body is the reason why i think the Turing Test is not very meaningful. The Turing Test locks a computer and a human being in two rooms, and, by doing so, it removes the body from the test. My test (let's immodestly call it the Scaruffi Test) would be different: we give a soccer ball to both the robot and the human and see who dribbles better. I am not terribly impressed that a computer beat the world champion of chess (i am more impressed with the human, that it took so long for a machine with virtually infinite memory and processing power to beat a human). I will be more impressed the day a robot dribbles better than Lionel Messi. In fact, already in 1994 Minoru Asada's Lab at Osaka University and Manuela Veloso's student Peter Stone at Carnegie Mellon University had been working on soccer-playing robots, and in 1997 Japanese scientists (mainly Hiroaki Kitano) launched RoboCup, the "Robot Soccer World Cup". Twenty years later you can watch very funny videos of the most recent robocup games.

If you remove the body from the Turing test, you are removing pretty much everything that defines a human being as a human being. A brain kept in a jar is not a human being: it is a gruesome tool for classrooms of anatomy.

(I imagine my friends at the nearest A.I. lab already drawing sketches of robots capable of intercepting balls and then of kicking them with absolute precision towards the goal and with such force that no goalkeeper could catch them; but that's precisely what we don't normally call “intelligence”, that is precisely what clocks and photocopiers do, i.e. they can do things that humans cannot do such as keeping accurate time and making precise copies of documents, and that is not yet what Messi does when he dribbles defenders).

"Trying to understand perception by understanding neurons is like trying to understand a bird's flight by studying only feathers" (David Marr, 1982)

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