High technology

Artificial life

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Jonar Nader speaks about artificial life and questions the possibility of a computer learning to think for itself. To listen to an excerpt from the radio broadcast, please click on the green play button below.

Here is a transcript of the audio file.

Jonar Nader: The interesting question here is can a computer be deemed to be artificially intelligent?

Host: Can it?

Jonar Nader: Here is the term. If artificial intelligence means an ability for a computer to learn from its’ experiences and then to simulate human intelligence in the areas of judgement, reasoning and learning, we are getting very close to the bone at that legal definition.

Host: Learning from its experiences is, isn’t it?

Jonar Nader: Well that is why you said in your opening, will computers dictate their own terms, well you can’t have everything can you. If you expect a computer to actually start to use heuristics, it means it will use rules of thumb, it means it will show emergent behaviour. Emergent behaviour for a computer means that the computer will be able to make other decisions based on things that have emerged, so that if you expect a computer to make decisions on things that have emerged, it therefore means it is a self learning machine, and if it is a self learning machine, it means it must make decisions that you have never actually programmed it to make.

Host: It’s a bit like a human being, like a child learning from experience.

Jonar Nader: Now what if the future decisions it makes are some things that you disagree with. You then start to have what’s called red buttons, where you turn the thing off before it overtakes you. Now let’s look at the definition of ‘artificial life’ because there is the next issue of at what point can something be legally termed ‘alive’? Doctors have a great strain with what can be termed dead. Is a person dead when their heart stops or when their brain stops? There is a lot of argument about that. Well what is something that is alive. We can say generally that something is alive if it can grow, reproduce, is self maintaining, self regulating, if it can respond to the environment and if it requires energy of some kind. You can say that a large computer fits the bill quite well. So then at what point will a computer have what’s called ‘sentient’ life where it becomes a species all its own?

Host: In which case will we get to the situation where a human can sue a computer for what it has done on its own.

Jonar Nader: These things happen already but are disguised in a human sueing a corporation, but often it is some of the other errors that have occurred in the background. But the more interesting question is would a computer be able to sue a human? Imagine that! Now let’s look at other things we can derive from that. Deep Blue’s win was really an experiment, although it was staged in a very fancy way, it’s nothing more than an experiment and both parties knew that. Although I know that you are curious about what Deep Blue did with the $700,000 it won.

Host: Yes I was expecting to a see a huge computer out on the town.

Jonar Nader: or out on the superhighway! From that kind of experiment you arrive at the question of ‘artificial intelligence’ and you push debating points of ‘artificial life’.

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