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Friday, July 20, 2012

Should We Believe That Computers Think?

Contrary to the view that has been repeatedly foisted upon me by certain readers -- ah, a certain reader -- I have no dogmatic position on whether we should attribute thought to computers, or whether they will one day think. But the following quote from Adam Smith (in a discussion of social planning) indicates why I think we should be more inclined to believe they do not think rather than that they do:

"[The planner] seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it."

I see no evidence that computers have any "principle of motion besides that which the hand [of the programmer] impresses upon them." Big Blue "plays chess" very well, but all of the intelligence responsible for this happening appears to me to have come from the programmers of Big Blue: they built a machine that does whatever they "chuse" to impress upon it: if they reprogrammed Big Blue tomorrow to always lose, Big Blue would always lose. What would be real evidence of intelligence on the part of Big Blue? If one day it says, "I don't feel like a game of chess today. Could we play Yahtzee instead?" (Without, of course, a programmer simply having directed the machine to say that at times.)

7 comments:

  1. Silas, you know how this works: for now, I am deleting your comments without even reading them. In a month or two, you will begin sending in polite comments again, and I will post them again. A few months will go by, and you will have another "incident," at which point you will get a time out again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Silas, do you understand "delete without reading"?

      It really wastes both our time if you keep posting nonetheless.

      Delete
  2. Aww, come on. Whatever Silas did can't be worse than lemonparty, can it? LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know this "lemonparty."

      In any case, Joe, Silas and I have had four or five rounds of this: he needs a couple of month banning once a year to keep him in line.

      Also, realize how many mails from him I have deleted since I made the first comment above (maybe eight?): he's gone a little loo-loo at the moment!

      Delete
    2. Oh, lemonparty was your little trick, right?

      Well, that was a joke in bad taste. Silas, by contrast, becomes vilely insulting.

      Delete
  3. Gene,

    It sounds like you believe there cannot be intellect (i.e. the ability to think) without will (i.e. the ability to choose). Is that right? I'm not sure I agree, but it's an interesting notion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Blackadder, here's my formulation from earlier today: "Do they forms plans of their own, apart from anything their programmers have instructed them to do?"

      Delete