Friday, February 18, 2011

man vs. machine

One more about Watson... although I can't promise the last.

I find it very strange that every advance in artificial intelligence sparks a debate about "what is intelligence" and "what does it mean to be human" and these musings on how, despite their successes, machines don't and can't capture the deeper poetry of meaning and life. It sounds sort of feebly defensive. It's like if Usain Bolt lost a race against R2D2 and answered with "Sure, machines are great at moving quickly. But running? Do they really feel the burn in their muscles, the competing thuds of heart and ground, the wind burning your lungs as you push yourself to the limits of your capacity? That's what running is all about, and humans will always have the advantage."

Intelligence isn't a list of skills you can check off a to-implement list. We define it relative to our own abilities and in the terms of our own experiences as human souls, so it will never apply to a machine that is designed to mimic merely the output, the physical results, of our thoughts. The point of AI shouldn't be to build an inorganic human, it should be to accomplish things that we can't do on our own. Man plus machine, not man versus machine.

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