Funny Computer

Some follow-up on “Artificial Intelligence,”  plus some odds and ends.

I wrote about “Artificial Intelligence” a couple of weeks ago, putting the phrase in quotes so I could say we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that what these machines do, does not include actual “intelligence” in the way human beings have intelligence. We shouldn’t assume machines will have human-like sentience just because we apply to them a label with the word “intelligence.” It’s a misnomer, as in the phrase “Military Intelligence.” Military intelligence isn’t about intelligence, that just sets it up for jokes about being an oxymoron. Military intelligence is about information, not intelligence. Same with computers.

Anyway, a thoughtful reader pointed me to The Weekend Reader from Maxwell Anderson on this subject, which I hadn’t seen. Very helpful.  To my points, one of the writers there noted that

“Ultimately, the term artificial intelligence may be a misnomer. To be sure, these machines can solve complex, seemingly abstract problems that had previously yielded only to human cognition. But what they do uniquely is not thinking as heretofore conceived and experienced. Rather, it is unprecedented memorization and computation.”

So my view is validated, at least by one person in the whole wide world. I just think all the hype about AI might cause us to lose track of the fact that uniquely human elements of consciousness (intentionality, continuity, self- and other-awareness, qualia, and so on) simply do not exist in high-speed calculators. By calling ultra-high-speed processing “intelligence,” we create the false impression that there is – or will be in the future — no difference between the machines we make and the humans God made.

In Saturday’s (9/22/18) Wall Street Journal there was yet another AI piece, this time on how AI is being employed for comedy. Very illuminating. Computers obviously lack elements essential to witty human comedy, like subtlety, timing, sarcasm, irony, and a general awareness of how things work in the world but sometimes don’t. So what AI actually does is provide random pronouncements that could be funny, and based on responses received, gets better and better with the kind of comments it makes. But of course, never with any self-awareness that it’s telling a joke, much less why it’s funny. It just the product of a complex algorithm. Computers don’t genuinely laugh. Kind of sad, really, until you remember that computers have as much life and soul as my lawn mower.

By the way, you might want to subscribe to The Weekend Reader here, as I did.  Consider this an addition to my “Good Sites” blog from a few weeks ago, wherein I divulged my secret stash of worth-receiving blogs.

While I’m suggesting new sites worth subscribing to, consider “Unbelievable.”  It mostly consists of excellent debates or other video presentations on large metaphysical questions, routinely. I just listened to one between noted atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett, and a British Christian who identifies himself philosophically as an “idealist,” holding essentially the mirror image of Dennett’s philosophy. That particular episode is here. The only downside to “Unbelievable” is that it’s all video, I think, and I generally prefer writing, but the content is so good I often spend the time necessary to take in a video.

I recently discovered poet Christian Wiman. Let me leave you with this quote from his preface to My Bright Abyss:

“There is an enormous contingent of thoughtful people in this country who, though they are frustrated with the language and forms of contemporary American religion, nevertheless feel that burn of being that drives us out of ourselves, that insistent, persistent gravity of the ghost called God.”


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