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Suicidal Robots.

January 21, 2013 Leave a comment

Super speech by Bruce Sterling in Austin back in June (Sterling talked at the Turing Symposium¬† commemorating the centenary of Turing’s birth June 23rd 1912). Have thought about posting about it earlier – but somehow didn’t get around to it before now…

It is well known that Turing was one of the earliest pioneers of computer science and artificial intelligence.¬† And, now, we are just beginning to wrestle with the problems of the digital age (What is real and what is not). The very problems Turing wrestled with way back in 1950 (in the ”Turing Test”).

According to Sterling, maybe the ”Turing Test” was never really about intelligence. Maybe it was about gender!

Lets imagine that it was about an artificial computational system that wants to be a woman! So, how can we help this computational system be a real woman? Help the artificial become real. Help a guy to be a real woman. And really feel like a woman does. Feel like a mother. Feel the wind like a woman feels the wind etc. (Indeed, actuality, sexuality is older than intelligence biologically speaking.  Intelligence rides on gender).
Sadly, probably, we can’t help our poor artificial friend.

So, of course, the artificial system fails. And becomes terribly depressed. Maybe, it even wants to kill itself?
Thats not what we wanted! Indeed, when we think about artificial intelligences we certainly don’t want them to entertain thoughts along the lines of the actual Alan Turing!

Nowadays we see Turing as a hero. We like to see him as one of us. We like to imagine that we are not hostile to people like him anymore (homosexuals). That we, as a society, have progressed a lot.

But in Bruce Sterlings speech, we were all reminded that we are still hostile to people who are very different. Whose work will not be appreciated for 30 or 50 years. We don’t particular enjoy people who are really confused about what is real and what is not.

And, we do not like machines that want to kill themselves, when they find out that they are not real… or that they may never know what it feels like to be a woman.

We don’t like to think about Artificial Suicidal Systems. We like IQ – but not suicidal artificial intelligence. We want machines that can inspire us towards more intelligence and awareness, not towards ”non-awareness”.

But, who ever said that it was going to be easy to be an intelligent machine? Confused and depressed about not being real.

Indeed, it was a great speech by Sterling!

-Simon

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