Cowen falls for the illusion of the chess-playing Turk

He writes, in reference to chess-playing programs:

"That gap--between our perception of superior human intellect and its actual reality--is the sobering lesson of the programs."

Cowen seems to forget how these "superior" chess-playing programs came into being. They were, of course, built by human beings. When a grandmaster is "shredded" by a computer program, he is really being defeated by a team of programmers and chess experts who have a calculation machine at their disposal. Just because they don't literally sit inside the machine, as a human being did inside the chess-playing Turk, does not mean that the machine has somehow mysteriously "become intelligent," any more than a rabbit trap is intelligent because it "knows" how to catch a rabbit. Machines can be "intelligent" only in that they can be "intelligently built."

7 comments:

  1. Not to mention that the way humans play chess is qualitatively different than the way machines do (or rather programmers do through their machines).

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  2. Gene,

    I'm surprised that you take this view; I don't think it's wrong, it's just that all the programmers that I speak to are usually on the side of computers being thinking machines.

    It reminds me of the old quip from Alan Turing; when asked if computers 'thought', he said that this is akin to asking if fish could swim; they 'do it all the time'.

    Hmmm, this is a complex issue. I'll have to get back after I collect my thoughts.

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  3. Well, what about if or when machines become self-programming?

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    1. There are already computers that "write programs." This just means that they are following a human written program that outputs code. Nothing of any importance rests on what the particular output of a program is.

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  4. Do you think Man was simply intelligently built by God to do certain things, like make choices?

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  5. Gene, why should the *origin story* of a thing tell us whether it is intelligent or not? And what origin criteria do humans satisfy that makes us *intelligent*?

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    1. I did not say anything at all about *origin stories* telling us if something is intelligent, marris.

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