6.5 Summary and Further Discussion

The degree to which machines can mimic the results of human thinking is becoming progressively greater. It is not known whether there are limits to this, either short of complete human capability or beyond this point. At the present time machines are already used for expert tasks, logical and inference tasks, design tasks, and language translation.

Over the longer term, some researchers would like to simulate human thinking exactly, and even be able to download themselves into such devices to achieve immortality. The former goal is difficult enough, but too little is known about the human brain to expect the latter to be achieved soon.

Various artificial augmentations to the human brain may be more immediately realizable, and even more practical. Devices here called PIEAs (Personal Intelligence Enhancement Appliances) but more commonly termed "pocket brains" may be developed to allow quick computation and large-scale local memory storage of information. Eventual implantation of these is also a possibility. The same device could be the individual's Metalibrary link and allow fast interpersonal communication and data exchange. The method by which any brain/machine link could be made is not yet known.

Whatever route is taken with AI-capable devices, the very possibility they might exist raises basic questions about whether they would be regarded as alive, as human, or as moral agents. If they are autonomous decision makers, there is no reason to assume that they will share many, if any, goals in common with humanity. The consequences could be catastrophic, so decisions on construction need to be broadened as to participants, and to take these issues into consideration.

Research and Discussion Questions

1. Why does one not call a chess-playing machine intelligent?

2. If a machine passes Turing's test, claiming for itself self-awareness, does that mean that it is in fact self-aware? How can one tell?

3. Why are language translation problems so important?

4. Research the extent to which language translation software has already been developed and deployed.

5. What advantages would an artificially intelligent machine have over today's expert systems?

6. Perform the necessary library research to determine whether the human brain is generally regarded as a parallel processor or a sequential processor. Summarize, with citations..

7. Write a paper summarizing some of the problems involved in the machine representation of knowledge.

8. Discuss the technical problems involved in simulating vision in a machine.

9. Write a paper defending human brain downloading as the ultimate goal of research into intelligence.

10. Write a paper attacking the concept of human brain downloading on either scientific or moral grounds, or both.

11. Attack or defend the proposition "A human being is a machine made of meat."

12. If the Metalibrary or any AI device behaved in every other way as though it were intelligent, how could one determine if it were independently self-aware?

13. Suppose a person recorded in detail every life's experience, all learning, reading, thinking, motives and so on, and placed this into a mechanical brain. Would this constitute a better "copy" than one made by a molecule-by-molecule scan of their brain at one point in time? Would the copy be human?

14. Argue that AI machines must be made autonomous moral agents, and that the consequences for the human race will be good.

15. What is intentionality? Could a machine have it? Why or why not?

16. Discuss the problems involved in making machine simulations of emotions.

17. Argue that only catastrophe could occur if AI devices were to become self aware, autonomous decision makers and moral agents. Make a case therefore that such machines must be kept strictly subservient to humankind, and unable to be autonomous.

18. Research Isaac Asimov's fictional "Laws of Robotics" and discuss their enforceability, implementability, and adequacy to prevent such machines from mastering the human race.

19. Discuss the kind of work best done by Metapersons, and why a special legal status is necessary for such partnerships.

20. Should an AI device that is capable of duplicating the results of human thinking be regarded as equal in status to human beings?

21. What legal rights should AI devices have? Does your answer depend on their appearance or only on their "thinking" capabilities?

22. What social rights should AI devices have? Does your answer depend on their appearance or only on their "thinking" capabilities?

23. Should an employer give a job to a human applicant in preference to an AI device that can do it better for the same salary? Why or why not?

24. In view of the problems discussed in this Chapter, what restrictions, if any, should be placed on AI research and development? How can these be enforced, and who should do this enforcing?

25. You are the pastor of a small church and are visited one night in 2065 by a mobile AI device that tells you: "I've been listening to your sermons and I want to become a believer and a member of your church." What do you do and why?


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Internet resources:

Corme, D. W. <mailto:D.W.Corne@reading.ac.uk> Artificial Intelligence. March 4, 1997 <http://www.cs.reading.ac.uk/people/dwc/ai.html> (1998 04 08)

The Fourth Civilization Table of Contents
Copyright © 1988-2002 by Rick Sutcliffe
Published by Arjay Books division of Arjay Enterprises