There’s a scene in the film Prometheus where an android asked a human why he would want to meet his maker? The human replied that he’d like to ask his maker why he made him. So the android said to the human, “Why did you make me?” And the human replied, “Because we could.” And the android then asked, “Will that answer be good enough for you?”
Science fiction has always loved the motif of man being the God of robots and AI machines – but I don’t think that will be true. Not because artificial intelligence can’t exist, but because of how AI will evolve.
Please read “’A Perfect and Beautiful Machine’: What Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Reveal About Artificial Intelligence” by Daniel C. Dennett at The Atlantic. No really, take the time to read this essay, if you are at all interested in artificial intelligence because this is an elegant essay about how AI will evolve. It’s also a unique comparison of Charles Darwin and Alan Turing that observes concepts I’ve never read or thought about before, especially about the nature of evolution. But for those who won’t take the time to read the article, I’ll summarize. Darwin’s theory of evolution, according to Dennett, proves that God or an intelligent designer didn’t create life on Earth. And Turing, with his Turing machine, proves that computers can produce creative output with no intelligent mind at all. What I get from this is simplicity can produce complexity.
But back to AI and robots. For a long time we’ve thought we could program our way to artificial intelligence. That once we learned how intelligence worked we could write a program that allowed machines to be smart and aware like humans. The belief was if random events in physics, chemistry and biology could produce us, why couldn’t we create life in silicon by our own intelligent design?
The solution to AI has always been elusive. Time and again we’ve invented machines that could do smart things without being smart. Machine self-awareness is always just over the horizon.
What Dennett is suggesting, is artificial intelligence won’t come from our intelligent designs, but from programs evolving in the same kind of mindless way that we evolved out of the organic elements of the Earth. That humans can create the context of AI creation, that humans can be the amino acids, but they can’t be the designers. The programs that produce AI need a context to evolve on their own. In other words, we need to invent an ecosystem for computer programs to develop and evolve on their own. How that will work I have no idea.
This means we’ll never get to code in Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. It also suggests that complexity doesn’t come from complexity, but the creative power of non-intelligent design. There’s a lot to this.
I’m also reading Imagine by Jonah Lehrer and it discusses how creativity often comes from our unconscious mind, and through group interaction. Often creative ideas burst out in an Ah-Ha! moment after we have digested the facts, chewed them over, worried, given up and then forgot about the problem. We are not even the God of our own thoughts and creativity. That intelligent design is the randomness of evolution.
Time and again the Lehrer book talks about creativity coming from process and not an individual expression. If you combine what Dennett and Lehrer are saying you catch a whiff of spookiness about unconscious forces at play in our minds and life in general. Conscious thinking become less impressive because it’s only the tip of the iceberg that surfs on the deep waves of the unconscious mind. Evolution is a blind force of statistics. Is creativity just another blind force like evolution?
If Dennett is right, our conscious minds will never be powerful enough to conceive of an artificial mind. And Dennett also says that Charles Darwin by coming up with the theory of evolution indirectly proves that a God couldn’t have created us whole in a divine mind. If you think about all of this enough, you’ll start seeing this is saying something new. It’s a new paradigm, like the Copernican revolution. We’re not the center of the universe, and now conscious thought is not the crown of creation.
[I didn’t write this. Thousands of books that I’ve read did.]
JWH – 6/28/12