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"Artificial Intelligence" Is a Dumb Term

Everyone is talking, or debating, about so-called “Artificial Intelligence.”
“AI” is smarter than humans; it will take over the whole world as we know it; humans will become useless, etc., etc. …
My admittedly amateur view is that whatever this is, it should be called “Artificial Calculation” rather than “Artificial Intelligence.”
My debating opponents argue that AI is capable of “thinking” for itself (programming itself) and coming up with novel solutions to all sorts of  problems.
I reply that it’s just a form of machine calculation made possible by the human programmers who feed the machine its program(s). The machine can only create novel outcomes made possible by the program. There is no “intelligence” there, independent of what the programmers have made possible.
One very enthusiastic friend argues that within a decade, a computer will be able to compose an entire play every bit as great as Shakespeare’s King Lear, while another party to this debate, says “No way!”
Part of my argument, besides the claim that computers are just slaves to their programmers, and are just calculating, not “thinking,” is that a computer is just an obedient machine, a house with nobody home.
Another hot topic has to do with AI and what most people call “Ethics”. How can a machine distinguish right from wrong. How will a self-driving car, for example, which may be in a situation where it cannot avoid hitting something, choose between hitting the child, or the pregnant woman passing in front of it?
On that topic, here is a particularly good piece Joseph Brean wrote for The National Post, (June 1).

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. David Easley

    You make an excellent point! There is great debate on which term to use. IBM calls it “cognitive computing”. Others call it “simulated intelligence” or “smart machines”.
    I personally prefer “augmented intelligence” since I don’t think human creativity and emotions can be replaced. Behind every current instance of artificial intelligence there is an army of humans.
    The hope/fear (depending on your perspective) is that with machine learning, artificial intelligence will become more and more refined.
    I always enjoy your thoughtful insights! Thank you!

    1. William Gairdner

      sorry to reply so late. some bugs in my system. Appreciated your comments. As you have probably seen, there is more coming out now on the problem of how we will ever teach a computer to make “ethical” choices (whether to steer the car into the dog or the nun when neither can be avoided).

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