Sunday, February 13, 2011

mind vs. machine

The Atlantic | In the race to build computers that can think like humans, the proving ground is the Turing Test—an annual battle between the world’s most advanced artificial-intelligence programs and ordinary people. The objective? To find out whether a computer can act “more human” than a person. In his own quest to beat the machines, the author discovers that the march of technology isn’t just changing how we live, it’s raising new questions about what it means to be human.

Each year for the past two decades, the artificial-intelligence community has convened for the field’s most anticipated and controversial event—a meeting to confer the Loebner Prize on the winner of a competition called the Turing Test. The test is named for the British mathematician Alan Turing, one of the founders of computer science, who in 1950 attempted to answer one of the field’s earliest questions: can machines think? That is, would it ever be possible to construct a computer so sophisticated that it could actually be said to be thinking, to be intelligent, to have a mind? And if indeed there were, someday, such a machine: how would we know?

Instead of debating this question on purely theoretical grounds, Turing proposed an experiment. Several judges each pose questions, via computer terminal, to several pairs of unseen correspondents, one a human “confederate,” the other a computer program, and attempt to discern which is which. The dialogue can range from small talk to trivia questions, from celebrity gossip to heavy-duty philosophy—the whole gamut of human conversation. Turing predicted that by the year 2000, computers would be able to fool 30 percent of human judges after five minutes of conversation, and that as a result, one would “be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.”

Turing’s prediction has not come to pass; however, at the 2008 contest, the top-scoring computer program missed that mark by just a single vote. When I read the news, I realized instantly that the 2009 test in Brighton could be the decisive one. I’d never attended the event, but I felt I had to go—and not just as a spectator, but as part of the human defense. A steely voice had risen up inside me, seemingly out of nowhere: Not on my watch. I determined to become a confederate.

The thought of going head-to-head (head-to-motherboard?) against some of the world’s top AI programs filled me with a romantic notion that, as a confederate, I would be defending the human race, à la Garry Kasparov’s chess match against Deep Blue.

During the competition, each of four judges will type a conversation with one of us for five minutes, then the other, and then will have 10 minutes to reflect and decide which one is the human. Judges will also rank all the contestants—this is used in part as a tiebreaking measure. The computer program receiving the most votes and highest ranking from the judges (regardless of whether it passes the Turing Test by fooling 30 percent of them) is awarded the title of the Most Human Computer. It is this title that the research teams are all gunning for, the one with the cash prize (usually $3,000), the one with which most everyone involved in the contest is principally concerned. But there is also, intriguingly, another title, one given to the confederate who is most convincing: the Most Human Human award.

One of the first winners, in 1994, was the journalist and science-fiction writer Charles Platt. How’d he do it? By “being moody, irritable, and obnoxious,” as he explained in Wired magazine—which strikes me as not only hilarious and bleak, but, in some deeper sense, a call to arms: how, in fact, do we be the most human we can be—not only under the constraints of the test, but in life? Fist tap Nana.


Big Don said...

Computer programs lack *creativity*. If it hadn't already been done, could AI code ever invent a ballpoint pen, write "Atlas Shrugged", compose "Johnny Be Good," or fix the bugs in new code...??

CNu said...

So revert to vacuum tubes and analog computations. The tubes overheat, the mounting boards deform ever so slightly, and all manner of unconventional and highly "creative" outputs ensue.

That, btw, is not a metaphor for what might happen, but as you probably well know, the reality of what actually did happen and fairly often before the advent of transistors.

All kidding aside, the strong AI proponents have always been laughable to me and the very idea that enough processing power could ever give rise to non-computable "qualia" (a la Penrose Shadows) makes the whole project seem a priori ridiculous.

CNu said...

While I'm sure you make sense to yourself Nana, I'm at a complete loss to decipher your meaning wrt Gurdjieff.

What is accelerating human genes or amount of knowledge?

Gene meme and teme, period. (^;

nanakwame said...

Morning Doc I watched Watson, one thing is clear, attunement, intelligence, affinity, propensity, excreta is not consciousness in of itself but your statement is part of the real debate:
Science believes that consciousness is an emergent property of biology, lol.., it's actually the other way around.
AND I agree, yet; it has a relationship to matter in the pregnant void, which created streams and dimensions.

I summed up the following from Mattt Ridley’s book. I have disagreements that I will get too; he is a libertarian. His contention on how pessimism is sold more than optimists strikes a point as one of my motives in our long discourses. As it says in the article on IA, humans ask the question, machines learn to answer. In what I find as reductionism in scientific thought, I believe the gene-culture has plenty of answers. All else is mere conversation LOL

Many of the idiosyncrasies of the human species are unchanging, too… There is a great deal of human life that does not change…Exchange is to cultural evolutions as sex is to biological evolution…Evolution can happen without sex, but it is far, far slower…Natural selection is a conservative force…The appeal to a genetic change driving evolution gets gene-culture co-evolution backwards: it is a top-down explanations for a bottom-up process. Human beings had started, for the very first time, to exchange things between unrelated, unmarried individuals; to share, swap, barter and trade…They began to build a collective intelligence…They had stumbled on what Friedrich Hayek called the catallaxy: the ever-expanding possibility generated by a growing division of labour…Famously, no other species of ape can encounter strangers without trying to kill them…But by 82,000 years ago, human beings had overcome this problem sufficiently to be able to pass Nassarius shells hand to hand 125 miles inland. Barter had begun.
The more knowledge you generate, the more you can generate. And the engine that is driving prosperity in the modern world is the accelerating generation of useful knowledge.
_ _ _ _ _
Does nature really abhor a vacuum? Doc