AI Hype – Pale Imitation of Intelligence in Prospect.

The Conversation here on the place of understanding in AI – effectively defining AI as not involving understanding. That is Intelligence Without Understanding. Not intelligence in my book, mere competence in Dennett terms, but here Sandis and Harper are suggesting there would be too many snags if “AI” did have understanding, that it would be a bad thing.

My position is that kind of AI is just algorithmic automation, not actual intelligence. Clever and useful but not intelligent. This is simply the AI-hype making a public song and dance about the kind of industrial systems automation and control that’s been around for decades, a century, and is simply becoming a more apparent (more hidden) part of applications on the public web. In my book that’s not intelligence, and part of the reason I say that AI will not be intelligent until it evolves to be actual intelligence. Proper-AI  will only happen when it has evolved through life itself. I happen to believe that is possible, that machines sufficiently complex over long enough times in stable enough environments will evolve “artificial” sentient life and ultimately actual artificial intelligence. But that is a very long way off.

This is just a definitional problem – people with interest in the public hype of AI finding it useful to redefine intelligence broadly as anything unintelligent – something that merely quacks like a duck. Those of us interested in human intelligence hold intelligence to much higher standards – genuine scientific and philosophical standards.

On the other hand, the trouble is that so many so-called science types – in order to stave off any hint of the thin end of a supernatural wedge – seem keen to redefine human consciousness and will as mere illusions, that even human intelligence is automatic. This is a political dispute – a war – not involving any actual science. This warlike political dispute with winners and losers and cost-benefits is what sells media clicks and eyeballs, to the disbenefit – polarisation – of science. (*)

But here, Anil Seth speaking at TED earlier this year:

Interesting that Nigel posted this after I had responded with a different spin to his own conclusion on human intelligence being a bleak vestige of possibility being pushed-back by neuroscientific advances.

That alternative spin is in the footnote here Irrational Science Portends Inhuman Transhumanism.

Anyway, watching Seth talk, we find that he is a scientist who is concerned about the intelligent and willful realities of human consciousness. I tweeted a few reactions:

Telling that, as a scientist, he makes an “even some philosophers” gag, which is missed by the science-worshipping audience. But there are plenty of cynics in his Twitter timeline – here an example:

That “lol” says a lot about how unscientific – how dismissive – the cock-sure scientistic types are when philosophers and sophisticated scientists suggest there might be things beyond their Science-101 comfort zone.

I like Seth’s attempt at a scientific ontology of consciousness – one that genuinely recognises our subjective position. The sexy graphics and use of the term “hallucination” grate a little, but are the necessary click-bait I guess. There is an honesty – that “sorta” operator – in how it’s actually described. Seth limits himself to what intelligent consciousness is, and importantly its dependence on life and embodiment, and doesn’t delve into the evolutionary philosophy of how it possibly came to be, but there is enormous alignment here with Dennett.

[Separate post to follow – gutting a summary of that ontology from Seth’s presentation, and relating it to Dennett’s evolutionary process view.]


(*) Interesting debate (in two parts) on BBC R4 Today this morning – Steve Jones, David Willetts and Richard Dawkins on science in the media and in public political life. Jones eventually acknowledging that most media coverage of science is about its technological and economic exploitation and mis-representing political controversy as scientific controversy. The politician talking the most sense – most recognising that not only is politics not science it’s not even about science and certainly not restricted to questions of science and evidence. Science may – rightly – wish to exclude values and subjectivity from its processes, but it cannot dismiss them from public interpretation, debate and controversy over content and exploitation of science.

[Post Note: Lots of Anil Seth resources linked on his blog page. Wider than the sky!]

Also published on Medium.

2 thoughts on “AI Hype – Pale Imitation of Intelligence in Prospect.”

  1. I agree with this and having studied some AI in Cranfield it was striking how limited it is generally, although stuff like fast-learning voice recognition and facial recognition is impressive technology. I think what many in the science world is warning about though is not what is happening now, but where the science is heading in the next few generations. Speculation probably, but getting some thinking done about a possible real AI in the future would probably not be wasted time. Philosophy should probably lead of course.

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