Stephen Hawking thinks computers may surpass human intelligence and take over the world. We won’t ever be silicon slaves, insists an AI expert
Mark Bishop in NewScientist
It is not often that you are obliged to proclaim a much-loved genius wrong, but in his alarming prediction on artificial intelligence and the future of humankind, I believe Stephen Hawking has erred. To be precise, and in keeping with physics – in an echo of Schrödinger’s cat – he is simultaneously wrong and right.
I believe three fundamental problems explain why computational AI has historically failed to replicate human mentality in all its raw and electro-chemical glory, and will continue to fail.
First, computers lack genuine understanding. The Chinese Room Argument is a famous thought experiment by US philosopher John Searle that shows how a computer program can appear to understand Chinese stories (by responding to questions about them appropriately) without genuinely understanding anything of the interaction.
Second, computers lack consciousness. An argument can be made, one I call Dancing with Pixies, that if a robot experiences a conscious sensation as it interacts with the world, then an infinitude of consciousnesses must be everywhere: in the cup of tea I am drinking, in the seat that I am sitting on. If we reject this wider state of affairs – known as panpsychism – we must reject machine consciousness.
Lastly, computers lack mathematical insight. In his book The Emperor’s New Mind, Oxford mathematical physicist Roger Penrose argued that the way mathematicians provide many of the “unassailable demonstrations” to verify their mathematical assertions is fundamentally non-algorithmic and non-computational.
Phi Beta Iota: Bravo. Finally, an articulate slap down of the “existentialist threat” crowd that is following the money. We are indeed our own worst enemies in our tolerance of corruption, idiocy, and waste among human “leaders” who lose their integrity very quickly. We are also endowed with brains most extraordinary, the one infinite (and largely untapped) resource on the planet. A glorious article worth a full read.