Friday, August 04, 2017

What Do You Think About Machines That Think?


netzpolitik |  It is one of the topics about which science and now also society have been discussing, researching, and arguing for decades: Artificial Intelligence. But it begins with the concept. Is not it better to call "designed intelligence"? Because unlike intelligence in humans, an "intelligent" program of a computer has been deliberately designed and created in a certain form. This is one of the suggestions that finds itself in a book that is as stimulating as it is entertaining by John Brockman , which is now available in German: "What should we think of artificial intelligence?"

Artificial Intelligence (AI) was initially a scientific research field, which wanted to investigate computer technologies in particular in order to imitate human skills with software: learning, understanding, acting. For more than sixty years, research has already been carried out. The literary professor Thomas A. Bass writes in his contribution "Mehr Funk, more Soul, more poetry and art":
We have numerous problems to tackle and find solutions. [...] We need more artist programmers and artistic programming. It is time for our mind machines to grow out of a youthful period that has lasted sixty years. (Thomas A. Bass, p. 552)
This "youth period" is certainly over. Because since the new millennium, the academic questions, which were usually only academic, have become interesting for many more people simply because they come into contact with AI in everyday life. They help with the information search, the navigation and now also with the creative cooking .
 
The most tangible is the so-called Natural Language Processing (NLP), that is, the processing of human language by software. Of course, "today's computers" do not "understand" what people have said, so they have "not such a competence at human level" (Rodney Brooks, p. 152), but they can process spoken words meaningfully.
 
Brockman's book provides a unique and multi-faceted insight into the field of AI, as a publisher of over one hundred and eighty authors, who illuminate all conceivable aspects of the subject. He raises the fundamental question: What should we think of artificial intelligence? And the authors answer this question in very different ways, each in scarce articles of only two to four pages.
In the introduction to the book, Brockman added further questions:
Should not we ask the question as to what thinkers might think about? Will they want and expect citizens' rights? Will they have consciousness? What kind of government would choose an AI for us? What kind of society would they want to structure for themselves? Or is "their" society "our" society? Will we and the AIs include each other in our respective circles of empathy?
Even this short series of questions makes it clear what Brockman is talking about in the book: it is not only the topics that are being pushed on today, but also far-reaching ones.