The failure of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence is proving to be a tricky problem for computer scientists. They seem to be able to make programs that are good at one thing or another but not programs that do anything outside of the constraints. Perhaps this is because human intelligence lies not so much in the individual as in our societies.

If you look around at your fellow humans you’ll notice that pretty much all of them do the same things and yet we are all wired slightly differently. To quote Richard Feynman,

“I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”

― Richard P. Feynman

This quote is a good example of two different people looking at the same thing in a different way. They are not wired the same and yet in most aspects of their lives they have done the same things. It is only in small ways that their thinking is different.

If I look at a flower, it’s just an object. I have an attachment to some because I have been taught to have an attachment. I need to be shown what is special about a flower and so I look at a flower in a different way from both these people. If I was to hazard a guess I would say the majority of people look at a flower as something pretty to be looked at or smelled. Only a very few look at them from the point of view of an artist or a physicist.

What has this got to do with the failure of AI? It has to do with the nature of what intelligence is. We all look at a subset of things slightly differently but in the majority we look at things the same and we communicate and teach each other other points of view, some of which we accept as valid even if we are unable to do them.

AI doesn’t have that. There is no AI society swapping ideas back and forth and no small randomisation in the way that each AI views the same thing. No way of accepting different ideas as valid for the group even if the AI is unable to repeat them itself.

Humans aren’t intelligent by ourselves. By ourselves we just die. Humans are intelligent because of the fictions of our societies and their ability to share the ideas that we create. To accept or refuse them.

“Fiction isn’t bad. It is vital. Without commonly accepted stories about things like money, states or corporations, no complex human society can function. We can’t play football unless everyone believes in the same made-up rules, and we can’t enjoy the benefits of markets and courts without similar make-believe stories. But stories are just tools. They shouldn’t become our goals or our yardsticks. When we forget that they are mere fiction, we lose touch with reality. Then we begin entire wars `to make a lot of money for the cooperation’ or ‘to protect the national interest’. Corporations, money and nations exist only in our imagination. We invented them to serve us; why do we find ourselves sacrificing our life in their service.”

― Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

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