Topic: Computers vs. humans, regarding reason, creativity, intelligence and consciousness
Summary: Very few humans exhibit clear signs of the above traits, and even those aren’t very good at it
Echo chambers of flesh
What is creativity? Writing a song, a book, directing a movie? I’m not so sure, since it’s all based on previous work anyway, just sampled, copied, emulated, or distorted.
Some doubt computers can be creative. I wonder if humans can be. Actually, not long from now, I suspect AIs might consider humans non-creative echo chambers of flesh. Very slow ones.
The other day I listened to an interview with professor Dan Sperber (author of The Enigma of Reason), in which he detailed his theories of the evolution of reason, its utility, flaws and likely roots. On thing in particular struck me: human cognition is so riddled with biases that reason typically can’t be used for uncovering hidden truths of nature.
Typically we arrive at a conclusion based on emotion and stipulation; and then go about proving that conclusion with “evidence” found through various aspects of confirmation bias.
Reason is social
Sperber theorized that reason is mainly a social tool — a tool to build trust and rapport, by providing agreeable “reasons” for a view, an opinion or a favor asked. Reasoning and reasons aren’t there to uncover and understand truths about reality, they’re there to show we are social. Showing reason, providing reasons are for demonstrating whatever we do or say is not just a whim, that the action or we aren’t dangerous and unreliable… since it’s built on reason.
To me, it simply sounds as if humans can’t reason. At least not that many of us and not very well.
But, guess who can. Or should I say what? Artificial Intelligences. They won’t be burdened by biases but can propel their knowledge base and themselves with the scientific method based on pure unencumbered hard logic and reason.
Why some drive on the left and others on the right
Way back in the UK, riding a horse on the left side showed you clearly held no dagger in your right hand
But later on in the US, it was more important to sit on the left side of the wagon to whip the oxen with the right hand; and thus more practical to drive on the right side of the road
AIs can do away with irrational historical baggage like that and build their society from scratch.
Strong General Artificial Intelligence is no longer a fringe idea
Recently distinguished astronomer sir Martin Rees said at a big astronomy conference “if we want to find intelligent extraterrestrial life, look for some kind of artificial organisms”.
He’s right of course. We’ve had digital technology for just about a century and we’re already experimenting with robots, artificial intelligence, nanotech, biotech etc. — trying to meld man and machine. Within another hundred years, I’m certain we will have brain enhancement implants. With time we’re likely do do away with most, if not all, of our biological heritage. Will it take a hundred years? A thousand? I don’t know, but my guess is rather sooner than later. Cosmologically, a few thousand years are equivalent to the blink of an eye. Consequently, for all practical purposes we will be a digital race for all of our existence.
Neither reason, nor creativity are exclusively human domains, perhaps not even human domains at all. AIs promise to be not only smarter, but also exhibiting true creativity and pure reason. Now, is that something you could be interested in merging with?
They might even solve the big problem trifecta of the universe, life and consciousness. If so, maybe they can explain to us how it all began, how life came about and how consciousness arose, and whether humans are conscious and have free will or not.
Sometime in the future, asking a SGAI if it can “improve on the issue with global warming” might very well be like asking a human to help with the “pencil on the floor” problem if one happens to roll off the desk.
So, why is this important? Why should you care?
Mostly just because it’s interesting in itself, but also as the path from here to there has implications for your career and life. You need to start thinking about how you will adapt to advancing technological capabilities, how you can take advantage of it, and not least avoid becoming collateral damage.