Intelligence is not Artificial

by piero scaruffi

Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence | Bibliography and book reviews | My book on consciousness | Contact/feedback/email
(Copyright © 2018 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

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

Footnote: Between Fatima and AlphaGo

Paul Nunez in "Brain, Mind, and the Structure of Reality" (2010) distinguishes between Type 1 scientific experiments and Type 2 experiments. Type 1 is an experiment that has been repeated at different locations by different teams and still holds. Type 2 is an experiment that has yielded conflicting results at different laboratories. UFO sightings, levitation tales and exorcisms are not scientific, but many people believe in their claims, and i will call them "Type 3" experiments, experiments that cannot be repeated by other scientists. Too much of Artificial Intelligence falls between Type 2 and Type 3.

News of the feats achieved by machines rapidly propagate worldwide thanks to enthusiastic bloggers and tweeters the same way that news about telepathy and levitation used to spread rapidly worldwide thanks to word of mouth without the slightest requirement of proof. (There are still millions of people who believe that cases of levitation have been documented even though there is no footage and no witness to be found anywhere). The belief in miracles worked the same way: people wanted to believe that a saint had performed a miracle and they transmitted the news to all their acquaintances in a state of delirious fervor without bothering to doublecheck the facts and without providing any means to doublecheck the facts (address? date? who was there? what exactly happened?). The Internet is a much more powerful tool than the old "word of mouth" system. In fact, i believe that part of this discussion about machine intelligence is a discussion not about technology but about the World-wide Web as the most powerful tool ever invented to spread myths. And part of this discussion about machine intelligence is a discussion about the fact that 21st century humans want to believe that super-intelligent machines are coming the same way that people of previous centuries wanted to believe that magicians existed. The number of people whose infirmity has been healed after a visit to the sanctuary of Lourdes is very small (and in all cases one can find a simple medical explanation) but thousands of highly educated people still visit it when they get sick, poor or depressed. On 13 October 1917 in Fatima (Portugal) tens of thousands of people assembled because three shepherd children had been told by the Virgin Mary (the mother of Jesus) that she would appear at high noon. Nobody saw anything special (other than the Sun coming out after a rain) but the word that a miracle had taken place in Fatima spread worldwide. Believe it or not, that is pretty much what happens today when a fanatical blogger reports a feat performed by an A.I. software or a robot as a new step towards the Singularity. People like me who remain skeptical of the news are frowned upon in the same way that skeptics were looked down upon after Fatima: "What? You still don't believe that the Virgin Mary appeared to those children? What is wrong with you?". Which, of course, shifts the burden of proof on the skeptic who is asked to explain why one would NOT believe in the miracle (sorry, i meant "in the machine's intelligence") instead of pressing the inventor/scientist/lab/firm into proving that the miracle/feat has truly been accomplished and can be repeated at will and that it really did what bloggers said it did.

"Whenever a new science achieves its first big successes, its enthusiastic acolytes always fancy that all questions are now soluble" (Gilbert Ryle, "The Concept of Mind", 1949, six years before Artificial Intelligence was born).

Back to the Table of Contents

Purchase "Intelligence is not Artificial")
Back to Cognitive Science | My book on consciousness | My reviews of books | Contact