Saturday, May 10, 2014

Artificial Imagination

Her is a highly enjoyable movie and in fact offers a nice vision of the future. It's neither utopian nor dystopian, just sort of neutral about where things are going, and somewhat hopeful, it seems to me, that we're heading (much, much later) towards the "clean" future of the Star Trek universe. But you'll never get me on the AI bandwagon. Artificial intelligence is complete nonsense, for all the reasons that this movie gets you to happily ignore for a couple of hours in order to enjoy the relationships between a handful of pleasant characters that you just, finally, wish all the best in the world for.

My argument is now, and will always be, that intelligence is a property of human (or ape or dolphin) bodies. Descartes was wrong to imagine (i.e., he could not really imagine) his mind without a body. And no computational process (no process running on no matter how many or how sophisticated computer processors) will ever form an image—because it has no flesh. No place for intellect and volition to meet.

There has been a long running debate among philosophers on the question, "Can computers think?" What they don't ask, but should, is: why would a computer think? Why would it develop consciousness? What purpose could it possibly serve to think if your "body" is merely an arbitrary storage device for your data, and you can "survive" indefinitely simply by making a copy of yourself? (I haven't seen Transcendence, but the trailer suggests that this is a key reason for the AI to get online.)

Intelligence forms at the natural limits of sensation, reached by freely willed motion. A "mind" that can read 180,000 names in a fraction of a second cannot enjoy the sound of one them more than another, nor get off on the imagined pleasure of a completely different kind of being. Spoiler alert: As Jonze sort of actually manages to say, imagining a human being and an operating system making love is sort of like imagining a human being having sex with a fridge, or perhaps like imagining making love to a woman who wants you to choke her with a dead cat. Unless, of course, you're just imagining Scarlett Johansson anyway. Which, I can't blame you. But there's nothing artificial about that image, friends.

4 comments:

wakawakamamma said...

This is old discussion of ours, but it is all off to say that intelligence is a property of bodies. It is a property (if not perhaps rather a propensity) of persons.

True, one cannot refer to persons without referring to their bodies (i.e. Descartes was indeed wrong), but that doesn't make intelligence of a property of human bodies. Co-extensionality does not imply sameness of appropriate predicates.

Thomas is intelligent. Not: Thomas' body is intelligent. Grammar is excessively clear on this point.

Thomas said...

But I believe that persons are identical with "their" bodies. (Scare quotes there to indicates that people don't have bodies, i.e., own them, but are them.)

We say "Thomas is strong", "Thomas is short", "Thomas is fat", etc. What does that prove? It's the same person that has all these properties. "Thomas is smart" is among them. The referent of "Thomas" is the same in all cases.

We don't say, "Thomas' body is strong" but surely strength is a property of bodies?

Presskorn said...

Clever use of examples, but they still get it backwards.

"Thomas' body is intelligent" is grammatically deviant, because intelligence is not a property of bodies.

On the other hand, the examples of the sort you suggest - "Thomas' body is short" or "Thomas' body is sunburned" - are not grammatically deviant. They are just clumsy and more full descriptions than "Thomas is sunburned". To account for their clumsiness, we might say they in violation of Gricean principles. I.e. they give too much information, since it is obvious that it is Thomas' body, which is sunburned, and not, say, Thomas' degree in philosophy. But they are not nonsense; they are perfectly coherent characterizations of objects.

Remember, properties are characterizations of objects, while objects can conversely instantiate properties. Thus we can say that “white” is a property of “Peter's hair” and that “Peter's hair” is an instantiation of “white”. We can also characterize Peter as intelligent, but I cannot force it over my lips to say that “Peter’s body” is an instantiation of “intelligence”. We should in any case not expect to be understood if we decide say to such things.

Thomas said...

Your confidence about this rattles mine a little. But I think my position (which I may now just be repeating) is that the "deviance" you're talking about is only a result of our deeply ingrained Cartesianism. Once we free ourselves of this, we see that attributing intelligence to bodies is just as merely "clumsy" as attributing sunburns to them.

It is possible that one source of confusion here is that persons are not, properly speaking, objects and therefore don't have properties. But I have to catch myself there, actually, because "volition" is to people as "intelligence" is to things! Pangrammatically speaking, anyway. And this does lead us somewhere interesting…maybe another post.