I? robot?

The author believes that computers will pass the Turing test by 2029. But, he muses what will be in store for computers after that.

I never won a game of chess against humans, save a few exceptions like my grandma and 5-year-olds. It made me probe as to what makes computers to win a chess game always, whether its your grandma, or a grandmaster. But not any more. Computer chess is not considered “true” intelligence. Its just about crunching numbers and matching patterns. AI proponents now go in search of newer vistas like making computers play a game of go, compose music etc.

Why is Turing test considered to be the litmus test for computers claiming to be intelligent? Because, language is one of the most complex functions of the human brain. A computer, says Ray Kurzwell, can get away with a few inconsistencies in other departments like writing poetry, composing music and painting. But, does Turing test tell whether a computer is conscious? If so, how?

asimo1The better question to ask would be, is consciousness an essential attribute of intelligence? The definition of consciousness is a topic in itself, which has been beaten to pulp. I buy this as a definition of consciousness: “any entity which is aware of its existence is said to be conscious.” We’ll see some grey areas which will lead to more greyer areas.

grey area #1:

Is an ant conscious? –> Is there a test to determine whether an ant is conscious or not?

grey area #2:

There is an all new Acme ultra-scanner device attached to your brain. It understands neural signals by converting them to electrical signals. We can attach it to our heads to digitize all our experiences, tastes, phobias and high school crushes and feed them to  a computer. Of course, the computer will be our alter-ego. Will it exhibit consciousness? Will I exist in two physical entities at the same time? sounds like science fiction to me. –> Is consciousness just a chemical reaction in our brain, which makes us self aware time to time? When I am sleeping without having any dreams or nightmares, where am “I” ?

grey area #3:
are we conscious?

Douglas Hofstadter feels that our brains are too weak to understand themselves.I think we are being too anthropomorphic by making computers to become self aware. Are we sure that we are self aware?  Do we just assume that we are? Does it vary by degrees? I have my doubts. In this regard, grey area #3 leads us to many interesting dimensions. One of them is the realization that all mammalian feelings are just chemical reactions. For instance,

  • hunger – triggered by hypothalamus, fluctuation of leptin
  • thirst – brain signals “thirst” when osmolite concentration is high
  • humor – signalled by motor nurons in the frontal lobe area
  • love – dopamine(?)
  • Godliness – triggered by “god spot” in the brain

Is it God’s way of tricking us into believing that we are self aware? In that case, we are computers again, no better. Just cellular counterparts of today’s Turing test contenders.  I believe that evolution is taking subtle twists, that it need not proceed linearly, or even biologically for that matter. Natural selection will give way to artificial intelligence. Its too microscopic a timescale for me to act as an observer and predict silly things.

Hopefully, computers won’t exhibit kleptomania like in the movies. They won’t long for our affection/acceptance(like in the movies too!). If an answer is figured out for the consciousness question, we can peacefully co-exist without any secret “world domination” plans.

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