Tag Archives: Artificial Intelligence

The possible ethical implications of an inevitable AI dominance

Due to the recent progression in the field of AI, many scholars express their concern of its far reaching ramifications and raise their voice to conduct urgent revisions in the ethics of technology.1 However, there is a single premise that in my opinion has not yet been put in question. It is the possibility, in principle, to control the technological growth.

In this paper, I will reinspect the ethical discussion in a different light. I will suggest to regard the technological growth as unstoppable. Furthermore, this discussion will be conducted from a standpoint in which it is clear above any doubt that an artificial intelligence will gain a dominance over the world. For our purposes, two scenarios will be taken into account as indifferent – the first one is that humanity will be surely extincted by the dominance of an AI, and the second is that humanity will be surely subjugated to an AI.

As a starting point, I will inspect the historical grasp of the perception that the man is the most significance being in the world, and the way it affects the two major disciplines of the modern ethics. I will then discuss whether there are any modern alternatives to this anthropocentric view and will address few in the field of environmental ethics. With this armor, I will try to asses what could the ethical theories tell us about a scenario of an artificial intelligence dominance over the world and humanity. Would these ethical theories embrace it? How would the emergence of super intelligence may conceived? Would it be conceived as an ultimate human tragedy or rather as a noble shift to humanity to its inevitable transcendence? Finally I will show that, in a specific constellation, the contemporary ethical theories inclines to embrace the super intelligence emergence even on the account of the human existence.

On the chief role of the anthropocentric view in the western society

Anthropocentrism is the perception that humanity is at the center of the world. It justifies a judgment over any other entity as a means to human’s welfare rather as an object on itself. Throughout the history of the western society the anthropocentric perception has a chief role that influenced many social phenomena in during the history, and according to some2, can explicate the cause of what is widely acknowledged today as the environmental crisis that consists of the massive destruction of natural habitats, the ongoing extinction crisis of wide range of animals species and the large scale exploitation industry of animals of which many consider as unethical and brutal.

Both the two major ancestors of the western society – the Judeo-Christian tradition and the Greek philosophy – bear clear traces of an anthropocentric perception.3 The biblical notion that man was created with God’s image, transcends man above all other beings of creation, inasmuch as God is transcendental from nature, so man differs from it essentially rather than in any degree of its own intelligence capacities. The sharp distinction of man from all other animals has taken a place in Greek philosophy with the shift from a myth oriented society to a rational oriented society4 in which the Logos become a prominent notion. It is Aristotle who “denied reason to animals5 and gave rise to the notion that the reason is the major factor to determine what should be regarded as a moral agent or not. Furthermore, according to Aristotle’s theory of hierarchies of ends (telos), the natural construction of the world constitutes of groups that differ from each other by their degree of development, so that each group is designated to use as a means to serve the group above it. The man, due to its capacity of reason, stands on top of this natural hierarchy, because according to Aristotle “nature has made all things specifically for the sake of man6. Later on, in the medieval society, it was a commonplace to believe that all beings were designated to be used as a means to man. Thomas Aquinas explicitly states that “other things, particularly lower ones, are ordered to man’s good as an end7.

This historical context uses as the background and may explicate the premises that still were firmly grounded during the development of the modern ethics. It seems that the two major disciplines of the modern ethics – consequentialism and deontology – absorbed the anthropocentric perception as one of its tacit premises. Emmanuel Kant, a pioneer of a secular deontological and ethical theory, believed that only an intrinsic factor that could be yielded from pure reason may use as an ethical argument.8 That implies, that just like other prominent thinkers such as Aristotle and Aquins, that the capacity of reason is the sole factor that justifies to assign a moral status to any being in question. On these grounds, one may expect that a counter ethical approach which bases its justifications on sensational arguments rather than pure reason, might be a fertile soil to refute the anthropocentric perception. But it seems that this premise’s impact was so strong, that it has penetrated even to an empiricists standpoint. Although Bentham’s utilitarianistic approach takes into account the ability to feel pleasure and pain, it eventually comes up to the same deontological conclusion that pleasure and pain are to be evaluated when they are based on the human reason, or at least should be much higher evaluated than just a mere sensational capacity9.

The environmental ethics as an alternative candidate

For a long time it seems that the anthropocentric perception is invincible. As long as there was no threat that was imposed on humanity, there was no reason to refute the presumption that the man is the most significant being in nature. But this intact picture has began to crack very recently, the environmental crisis changed the fundamental unwritten historical status quo over the equilibrium between man and nature. Although the huge impact of the environmental crisis, it still was not sufficient to eradicate the anthropocentric perception but only to put it into a question and lead into an ongoing discussion over man’s self evaluation and the environmental ethical status which is commonly known as environmental ethics in the philosophic literature. The environmental ethics discussion is akin with our concern because it suggests alternative ethical views to the hegemonic anthropocentric view. The contemporary environmental ethical discussion is still in a way based upon the two major disciplines of the ethics in philosophy, deonthology and utilitarianism.

One of the prominent contemporary thinkers of animals rights, Tom Regan, for example, adopts the Kantian ethical standpoint while he criticizes his sharp distinction between ‘persons’ and ‘things’10 whereas ‘persons’ consists of only rational beings and ‘things’ – simply all the rest. Regan suggests to consider autonomous beings such as mature mammals as appropriate candidates to bear a moral status. Regan’s move is based on shifting the focus from the human reason to a set of capacities that may indicate on an ability of autonomous such as perception, intention, memory, self sense of being and more. According to Regan, these capacities should be sufficient for a moral evaluation on the grounds of an intrinsic factor which differs from a human reason. Another example for a non anthropocentric approach is the ethical theory of Peter Singer. Singer adopts the utilitarian standpoint, which seems to have the methodological infrastructure to bear a non anthropocentric approach, since it is grounded on perceptual capacities, which are common to humans and non humans in some degree of a lower or even non cognitive interpretation. According to Singer, all sentient beings should be considered to bear a moral status due to their ability to experience pleasure or pain, regardless of their cognitive interpretation. Hence Singer’s utilitarianism yields a theory in which ethical deliberations should be taken from a perspective of the overall extent of mensurableness of all beings, whilst the human cognitive perceptual interpretation is merely one of the arguments on a common par with other sentient beings.

These few examples takes us forward by illustrating possible attitudes towards the chief question that I wish to address. In order to make the essential adjustments that are relevant to us we first should bear in mind in what sense the environmental ethics discussion differs from our specific case. There are at least two significant differences that should be taken into account –

(a) Although the environmental crisis may imply on a threat to the continuity of humanity, it is an ambiguous issue that is on an ongoing controversial discussion. A scientific unequivocal determination that the environmental crisis would inevitability entail the extinction of humanity would bear different implications, those of which I will try to assess in a different manner when discussing the dominance of an AI.

(b) Environmental ethics puts in question the moral status of the environment and the animals realm. Although it suggests a broader or alternative perspective to the anthropocentristic view, it handles with the moral status of non-rational beings. Our specific case puts in question the moral status of rational beings, though non-human.

The possible ethical implications of an inevitable dominance of AI over the humanity

I will now try to assess the possible implications of a scenario in which an inevitable dominance of an AI over humanity will take place, from the two major different ethical standpoints in a respect to the previous discussion.

From a deontological point of view, it is most likely that AI beings bear an intrinsic value due to their intellectual capacities that not only should correspond to what Kant considered as reason, but could even be evaluated much higher than the human reason. Since Kant argues that only pure reason is capable of having a moral deliberation and determine right and wrong, we could argue accordingly that inasmuch as one’s intellectual capacities are higher, so it deserves to be considered as having a higher moral status. In this manner, in a comparison to AI, human reason might lose its significance at all. Because in the light of a superior artificial intelligence, the human reason might seem to be completely irrational and primitive. Just as much as in Kant’s view, animals lose their significance in the light of the human reason. Furthermore, a deontological perspecive that adopts Aristotle’s teleological hierarchies perception, could assert that the use of humanity as a means for the good of AI dominance is a natural phenomenon that adequate the notion that inferior level forms of life are intended to serve superior forms of life, based on their degree of reason.

It is ironic that as far as the inevitable dominance of AI is concerned, deontological ethicists might attempt do adopt and elaborate the deliberations that were formerly introduced by environmental ethicists, such as Tom Regan, for the good of justifying human rights to exist. They might do so by composing an ethical theory that will lose its sharp distinction between ‘rational beings’ and ‘irrational beings’11 for the good of a more tolerant theory on the basis of Regan’s suggestion that shifts the focus from reason to other aspects of sovereign beings such as basic cognitive or perceptual capacities. The adoption and elaboration of Regan’s ethical view will be required in order to base ethical justifications for the reason why should humanity be preserved and why should it be deserved to be considered with a moral approach and why should it have the right to live without being an object of a constant exploitation in the hands of an AI dominance age. Therefore, it clearly implies that if taking into account an inevitable dominance of AI scenario, the anthropocentric approach promptly collapses and replaces by a non anthropocentric alternative.

Nevertheless, A deontological perspective does not necessarily have to evaluate a superior intelligence as neither a higher moral being or as any moral being at all. This option could be derived from a view that identifies the significance of the human reason not due to its rationality but rather to its humanity. In this manner, the Kantian justification of the human moral status by its human reason is merely a projection of the anthropocentric view. In this light the Kantian move uses the reason only as a means to ground an anthropocentric paradigm with rational tools whilst, ironically, it is in itself irrational. In this view, the human reason is a genuine phenomenon that could not be duplicated or imitated without losing its core essence. According to this view, although an AI is super intelligent, it is inhuman, thus, neither its dominance or the subjugation of humanity to its end is a moral scenario, which thus should be conceived as a historical tragedy.

Furthermore, there is a third way which both maintains the anthropocentric view and embraces the dominance of an AI over humanity. If we accept Kurzweil’s point of view, one out of the two major features of the Singularity which will take place on what he calls the fifth epoch12, is a merger of AI capacities into the human brain with a process of a consistent technological development of these AI capacities up to a complete convergence of the artificial component with the biological component of the human brain. Hence one will not be able to distinguish anymore between the artificial and the biological aspects of the human brain. According to a deontological view, Kurzweil’s theory might only support its anthropocentric view because it alters the meaning of what is to be human and thus AI is now included within the scope of humanity and being perceived as a human phenomenon. However, if there will be at all any human beings free of any implanted technology, they shell be regarded according to this approach as no more than animals.

Let’s now inspect the same question this time from a utilitarian standpoint, if we may take into account the presumptions that AI machines will not have any perceptual capacities with which they could experience sensations such as pleasure and pain, then we may argue that AI beings should not be regarded as a moral agents. However, it still does not necessarily implies that AI will not be able to experience sensations as a result of a cognitive process. Furthermore, if considering a scenario in which humans will not be the sale engineer behind the AI, so that AI will capable of its self-engineering, then we can never eliminate the possibility that AI might experience sensations. So it is most likely that AI is to be regarded as a moral agent according to a utilitarian standpoint. Now we need to inspect the impact of a AI dominance in respect to its influence on the overall amount of pleasure and pain in the world. A worldwide dominance of AI could be highly beneficial by its capacity to minimize the magnitude of the suffering in the world since its superior intelligence can used to apply a totalitarian disciplinary government by which no violence will be allowed to be imposed on others and all the worldwide resources will be used for the good of every being on earth.

On the other hand, since it is a foreign dominance of an AI that is out of any human control, an opposite scenario is equally plausible, in which the AI uses its powers to maximize its exploitation over all the resources of the earth, including human beings, which will most likely to be obliterated once no longer will be useful for the machines. That picture of a mass human exploitation and subjugation is clearly reprehensible in a utilitarian ethical standpoint. Nonetheless, if AI will ever come up with a genius plan how to obliterate humanity without causing any pain or sorrow, it may not be reprehensible from a utilitarian ethical stand point, since, as we saw earlier, its methodology does not necessarily involve any anthropocentric presumption into it.

To sum up, the inevitability presumption that we imposed on the question was strong enough to crack and even eliminate the anthropocentric premise, it could be easily conducted on the basis of the environmental ethical theories. We have inspected whether the contemporary ethical theories has the sufficient capacity to accommodate to the illustrated scenario. We have found that in most cases there is an incline to put a super intelligence being in a higher precedence over a human being, each one in a specific constellation. Yet it is essential to point out that it is ambiguous whether the ethical theories emphasize the significance of the human reason because it is a reason or because it is human. We may equally assert that these ethical theories are merely a projection of a strong anthropocentric tendency, that is, that what stands behind the scenes of these rational-saturated-justifications theories is in fact, an irrational premise in itself. In this case, there is no way to refute the anthropocentric premise, which we may call a ‘strong tendency’. On the other hand, if we conceive these theories merely by their content, they do intend to decline the anthropocentric premise and to pour a justifying and embracing light on the illustrated phenomenon of AI dominance, even on the account of the elimination of the human existence, or at least what is commonly acknowledged as human.

References List

  • Steiner, Gary, Anthropocentrism and its contents: The moral status of animals, 2005, University of Pittsburgh Press, A digital copy

  • Moore, James, Why we need better ethics for emerging technologies, Ethics and Information Technology, 2005, p.111-119.

  • Jonas, Hans, Technology and responsibility: Reflections of the new tasks of ethics, Social Research, Vol 40, No 1. 1973, pp 31-54.

  • Kurzweil, Ray, The Singularity is Near, 2005, Published by Viking Penguin, A digital copy.

  • Aquinas, Thomans, Summa Contra Gentiles. Available on-line:

    http://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles.htm

  • Aristotle, Politics, Available on-line:

    http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/politics.html

  • Environmental Ethics, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available on-line:

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-environmental

  • The Moral status of Animals, Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available on-line:

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-animal

1 These few examples might illustrate my point: James Moore, for example, discusses in Why we need better ethics for emerging technologies, the necessity to evolve the contemporary ethics due to what he identifies as the emergence of three prominent technological revolutions. In my opinion, the author lacks an inspection of the common grounds from which these phenomena were initially raised, an inspection that might have put the controllability premise in question. In another example, Hans Jonas, raises in Technology and responsibility a concern about implications of technological achievements that implements an “impersonal mechanism” on the account of the subjective self-hood. Jonas states that an elaboration in ethics is essential to avoid such doomed future. Jonas’ assertion should have been different if it was not relying on the tacit premise that the technological growth is controllable.

2For further reading, see Dave Foreman, Confessions of an eco-warrior and John Passmore, Man’s responsibility for Nature.

3Although there is a dispute over the degree of which Judaism could be identified as anthropocentric or not. For example, John Passmore identifies that the notion of man’s superiority could not be derived from the Hebrew thought. Passmore relies on the fact that Maimonides himself, who is a prominent Jewish philosopher, can use as a counter evidence that refutes the anthropocentric approach and argues that it can be addressed in the ancient Greek thought, especially in Aristotle and the Stoic. Source: Steiner, 2005 , Location 1606.

4The revolutionary shift of the Greek society is widely discussed on the introduction of Shmuel Shkulnikov’s The Pre-Socratic Philosophers. 1981, In Hebrew.

5Steiner, 2005, Location 747.

6 Aristotle, Politics, Bk. 1, Ch. 8

7 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Bk. 3, Pt 2, Ch 112.

8Steiner, 2005, Location 2184.

9Ibid, Location 22997.

10Ibid, Location 145.

11These two attributes ‘rational beings’ and ‘irrational beings’ are in a respect to Kant’s distinction between ‘human rational beings’ and ‘irrational non human beings’, only that they designate the abyss between a super-intelligent AI and an ordinary human reason, which could be considered by the light of a super-intelligent AI a ‘irrational’.

12 Kurzweil, 2005, Chapter one, The Six Epochs.

The Essential Shift to Superior Intelligence Dominance and its Moral Status

Preface

Due to the contemporary increasing growth in technology and its vast impact on society, there is an increasing attempt by ethicists and thinkers to reassess common ethical paradigms and to raise their voice for the good of a necessary elaboration in ethics or meta-ethics. However, during my observation, I noticed that most of the arguments that are being raised rely upon a set of a lower level justifications which are requisite for validation, as following -

(a) Each technological phenomenon is regarded as a concrete event as itself rather than yet one more appearance that stems from the same single phenomenon. This approach makes it harder to bear its true nature.

(b) There is a a strong tendency to denunciate any technological foreseen implications. This incline occurs every once the phenomena’s impact exceeds the conventional boundaries of any of the things we are already familiar with.

(c) There is a lack of thorough psychological or metaphysical discussion that addresses the technological phenomena’s root. The absent of a thorough apprehension consists of a tacit premise that the whole phenomenon is in our control, although, it is not, as I intend to argue.

During this paper, I will try to put in question these premises. I will regard all multiple manifestations of technological growths as stemming from a single phenomenon. This investigation will take us straight forward to to the paramount question – What is the drive behind this technological increasing growth? Could it possibly be attributed to a metaphysical principle or should be addressed solely with the individual subject? What may the answer imply regarding the nature of this phenomena, could it be controlled or is it inevitable? And finally, If it is indeed will be articulated, as I intend to argue, that this process is inevitable, which moral status should it bear to us?

To address this challenge I will use Nietzsche’s notion on the Will to power with a conjunction of Hegel’s Phenomenology of spirit. Only an adoption of both notions will be essential to draw a broader enough monistic framework which exceeds the scope the individual, in order to pour a different light on this fascinating phenomenon. To maintain a coherent discussion, the last section on its moral status will be regarded in a respect of the same framework as well and may entail a nontrivial outcome.

Nietzsche’s Philosophy of power

In order to grasp the full potential of Nietzsche’s philosophy of power, we are required to elucidate its objective intention. It is commonly acknowledged that the hurt of Nietzsche’s philosophy is based upon the notion of the Will to power. Unfortunately, Nietzsche himself deliberately does not explicitly specifies the subject on which this notion imposes, and it seems his equivocalness is well serving his own intention.

Walter Kaufman states that according to Nietzsche the will to power is “the most profound fact to which we penetrate1, it includes our passions and intellect that are employed by the Will to power. It is the psychological archea to which any human activity can eventually be reduced thus could inasmuch be used to explain any human phenomenon. With a first sight, The Will to power may be perceived as a passion to conquer, imprudently smash, depress and exploit the other or as an aggressive exhibition of fierce desires. Though in fact Nietzsche uses this notion merely in one’s relation to itself by itself. Jacob Golomb identifies a “growing tendency to spiritualize the notion of power as part [while using a distinction between] Kraft and Gewalt.2. Whilst Gewalt is identified as a manifestation of brutal violence and cruelty, Macht designates power that relates to itself in a form of perpetual sublimation.

According to Nietzsche, there is a special relationship between power to reason. Whilst all creatures are able to manifest power, only man’s power may be fully mastered by the reason or at least be controlled by it. This is what enables man to multiply his power by such an extend to which any other animal is incapable. Hence, the reason is a significant tool to gain an increasing power and thus gets its status as “man’s highest faculty3. However, The Will to power is not merely about survival rather than about the intrinsic drive of one to impose power upon oneself as we soon will see. Furthermore, Inasmuch as Nietzsche opposed to the interpretation of power as Gewalt (imposing external force), he opposed to the counter course of which the power is employed unto one’s desires in order to depress and cause its elimination.

Although Nietzsche explicitly gives its Will to power a metaphysical meaning when stating that “The world [as] seen from within, [..] it would simply be ‘Will to Power,’ and nothing else4. It will not be an easy task to consistently build a metaphysical framework on top of Nietzsche’s work. It is due to the fact that Nietzsche’s hold of an equivocal position that objects any kind of transcendence and metaphysics and that most of Nietzsche’s thought is developed in the scope of psychology5. In the scope of this paper we are looking for a firm framework as an explanatory basis for the phenomenon of the increase of technological power. Fortunately I found a basis in the path that links between Nietzsche’s Will to power and Hegel phenomenology of the spirit.

The link to Hegel’s Phenomenology of spirit

Kaufman and other commentators defined Nietzsche’s Will to power as best manifested as a self over-coming process. It is, in fact, a perpetual process in which the self conducts preserving, canceling and lifting up of its raw desires with the power of reason into a higher and sublimated orbit. An attempt to bare the roots of Nietzsche’s sublimation (‘sublimierien’ in German) shows that its Latin root, ‘sublimare’ is interpreted in German to ‘aufheben’, thus those equally share the same meaning. This should not be surprising, both Nietzsche and Hegel were looking for a philosophy in which nothing should be ‘borrowed’ from the outside, i.e, an immanent and monistic framework that objects any transcendence or dualism and yet consist them both.

Hegel’s Phenomenology of spirit is an attempt to converge between Kant’s transcendental self and Spinoza’s infinite substance. Hegel takes the subjective attribute and the self identification process of the transcendental self from Kant and the immanency from Spinoza and comes up with a new notion of the Absolute – as a part of the attempt to ‘release’ the being from Kant’s subjectiveness philosophical crisis. Hegel’s Absolute is a subjective object if we may call it this way. It consists of a dialectical process between the subject and substance whereas self-consciousness is the driving force of that vehicle.

The world as the self, holds within itself its self-portrait, its self-reflection6. The self manifests it self in time through spirit and slowly accumulates into history. The spirit in each phase in time, has consciousness in some extend, once the consciousness wakes up in history, it becomes aware of itself. Consciousness diverges into self-consciousness as subject and consciousness as its object. The reflection of the self-consciousness on itself causes the consciousness transformation from a substance into a subject. This process of absorption is not one dimensional rather based on the negation of the self on itself with its self-conscious. Once the substance is fully absorbed it is being preserved and canceled, that is, refuted and adopted into a broader scope.

Because the “new born” subject has a self-conscious this process begins once again not to infinity but to an extent in which there is an intrinsic self-identity between the substance and the subject. “After these stages, spirit then brings to light the thought that lies in its inmost depths, and expresses ultimate Reality in the form Ego=Ego7. That perception of the Absolute, or God, pours a brighter light on God’s answer to Mozes when asked what is his name in the burning bush, whereas God replies “I am that I am8, a name that reflects a process of becoming a self-identity that consists of two components9.

Hegel’s Phenomenology first and foremost relates to being as a whole, although it could be just as much relating to an individual subject. Hence consciousness appears inside history and carried out by man as an agent of destiny to push creation forward towards its final stage of the World-Spirit throughout history. Note that Hegel objected any tendency to conceive nature as a conscious entity though such assertions were common during his age with the romanticism wave that washed Germany during the 19’s century with Schelling, Ficthe, Goethe and more.10

This implies that according to both thinkers a self-reflective consciousness is essential to gain either an increasing accumulated power by reason according to Nietzsche or either an Absolute Knowledge. Both thinkers describe a process of an immanent evolution driven by a fundamental tendency of nature or cosmos in a monistic framework. However, this does not necessarily state that the man is the sole agent of that process. The fact that consciousness has been merely known so far as carried out by humans is contingent to the core of the described phenomena. Hence it is not an essential factor. Furthermore, during the time these notions have developed, a notion of artificial intelligence was not even introduced in science fiction literature, the only option to be considered was a conscious nature and it was rejected due to its identification with theological paganism11.

Now let us put this discussion aside for now and jump forward to the present. The huge pace humanity made from the time Nietzsche and Hegel were walking on the land of Europe to our present was made within a tiny fraction of time from a historical perspective – a century and a generation time. This phenomenon had caught Ray Kurzweil’s attention as we see as follows.

Kurzweil’s Technological Singularity

The phrase Technological Singularity, at which Kurzweil makes a broad use, derives from sciences or mathematics, nonetheless it shares a common meaning in which a single point manifests an infinite excess of some type. Although Kurzweil was not the first to use singularity in a technological context12 he was the first who made a further explication to predict when in his opinion this phenomenon will take place. Albeit his far-reaching determination of prediction has become neither widely accepted in public nor among scholars.

The initial definition of a technological singularity is “A future period, during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed13. This change has two major features according to the author – The first is a complete convergence between biological and machine intelligence, and the second is a further engagement between virtual and physical realities to an indistinguishable extent.

In order to determine when the singularity will take place, that is, when a massive change will be noticeable, Kurzweil has collected historical data on scientific achievements and put it on a graph. He then noticed that the curve of its course is not linear of any type rather exponential. The author explains that people neglect to see its exponential curve because they incline to judge the future according to the past. Furthermore, he claims that an exponential curve is deceiving by its nature, it begins with a long near horizontal and linear tail but then it conducts a turn very quickly once it surpasses the “knee of curve” and its new course becomes nearly vertical14. Hence, as long as we are placed on its horizontal tail, an extreme change may perceive as either implausible, or either science fiction or an apocalyptic prophecy.

With this research Kurzweil conducts few predictions about what is to come just one pace ahead of us and reaches a conclusion in which “we can expect computers to pass the Turing test [..] by the end of the 2020’s15. Considering the fact the clock has longly ticked since his paper was first published (during the 2000’s) and it is already evidential that some of Kurzweil’s predictions has not realized16, hence most likely that the rest of his predictions will not to be realized either given a time span of a decade to come. However, this doesn’t refute his determination of exponential increase, rather merely postpones it in probably few further decades or even less.

Criticism of Kurzweil’s fifth epoch

In my opinion, what is to be put in question is not the possibility of artificial intelligence’s emergence at some point in the next generations, rather the nature of its emergence. Kurzweil designates the emergence of an initial AI the role of Singularity introducer, albeit, he states that the AI will be initially introduced as engaged with human brain, as following -

The Singularity will begin with the fifth epoch. It will result from the merger of the vast knowledge embedded in our brains with the vastly greater capacity, speed, and knowledge-sharing ability of our technology17

Kurzweil assigns to the fifth epoch a bright and optimistic scenario that will have a positive effect on human life. What is to come according to Kurzweil is an ascendancy of human-machine civilization. That is, regardless of the extent of which AI will be present into the human skull, its face will always remain human and will be faithful to the human legacy. I would like to refute this assertion with a counter argument, which I regard as a more plausible opinion.18

According to Kurzweil, the fifth epoch is featured by the merge of artificial intelligence, or at least, a partial component that would be implanted into human brain. In order to successfully implement such a circuit, A comprehensive knowledge about neurology should be gained. It is most likely that multiple trial and error series of research tasks will be conducted inside some sort of digital emulations prior to any implementation into human brain. Furthermore, Implantation of a digital circuit inside biological human brain which its neurological system is based on biological processes requires both thorough understandings of the assimilation of the neurological architecture upon a digital substratum and a thorough understanding of the biological processes to the requisite extent that is required to implement an interactive circuit inside of it. Without getting into greater details with these presumptions, it clearly makes a greater sense that a capability of a pure-digital AI

highly precedes any capability of integration within human brain.

That is to say, sooner than any merge will occur, we will face a phenomenon in which there will be a surfeit of a target-designed AI entities that must likely be embedded into various products such as vehicles, air conditioners, customer support softwares (chat-bots), smart-phones, clean robots and more. Each one of these products will implement a specific module that has AI capabilities, such as voice recognition, media scanning, spatial orientation and more. These modules will be (and most of them currently are) widely available to the public as part of an open knowledge practices. The consumers will constantly raise a demand for further enhancement of these products as part of the current course of the free market. This process will be accelerated by the natural equation that the more these products are intelligent and complex – the more efficient and safer they are. (safer, for instance, in a respect to autonomous vehicles project which has already taken an experimental place in few places around the world).

Note that not only that a development of intelligent algorithm meets the market requirement on various product types, but the more as this intelligence succeeds the specific demand to assimilate human intelligence the more its market value raises to its highest degree. This is due to the fact that human intelligence features higher targets human needs – Only an intelligence with human features may be adequate to address human requirements – to accelerate sales and commercial promotion, to simulate artificial posts on the social media, to provide a better customer service and save enumerators expenses on employees and so on.

Hence we could see how the drive behind the acceleration of an explicit human intelligence is a big interest of the open capital market. Furthermore, only intelligence with human attributes will be able to address epistemological issues. In psychology, for instance, there could be a high interest to run a simulator of AI for psychological proposes to further investigate psychological phenomena, in philosophy to address complex issues, in arts and even politics, consider for instance the option to run simulations to compose the best politician and ‘set it free’ on the social media for further investigation.

The inevitable escape of the demon out of the bottle

These presumptions that rely on a contemporary course implies that sooner or later these enhancements entail to a situation in which they reach an extent that is comparable to a human intelligence. To be more cautious and precise, it is likely to assume that when such capabilities will be reached, preventive measures will be conducted (possibly by governments) to the sake of cautious. Nick Bostrom19suggests that AI algorithms might be initially caged within a limited environment without any channels to access the outer world through the Internet for instance. Then a set of tests will be conducted in order to ensure that this new born intelligence will not commit any wrongdoing steps or have any vicious aims. Bostrom argues that the following realization is likely to be raised inside an intelligent intelligence as following -

An unfriendly or AI of sufficient intelligent realizes that its unfriendly final goals will be best realized if it behaves in a friendly manner initially, so that it will be let out of the box. It will only start behaving in a way that reveals its unfriendly nature when it no longer matters whether we find out”.

This strategy is defined by Bostrom as “The treacherous turn”, a strategy that is carried out by a deceptive behavior in order to conceal its real final aims. In terms of efficiency and beneficial calculus, it makes sense that once an AI realizes that bearing its intrinsic aims might result in its termination, it will never expose its real aims until its winning strategy will be guaranteed, or make the highest possibility. In that point of view, an AI might manifest a friendly and faithful character for as long as required, eventhrough generations, because its perspective is not limited to a life time boundaries.

Furthermore, as Eliezer Yudkowsky pointed out20, if we put on one scale of intelligence, a Mouse, a Chimp, “Village idiot” as the extreme sign of the less intelligent man and “Einsten” for the extreme sign of the most intelligent man. We might discover that when zooming out from the anthropomorphic scale into a broader scale, while a Chimp stands the half way between a Mouse and the “Village idiot”, the difference between the “Village idiot” and “Einstein” is just a tiny fraction on the scale. This is to point out that once a capacity of human intelligence is reached, the gap to surpass it into say a doubled intelligence capacity could be just as easy as to clone a new instance of the same machine and let both play as a one entity. And we have not taken into account any changes for unintended mutations that are likely to be produced during the trial and error development process. A subsequent result might be a highly intelligent ‘demon’ that is kept in a bottle (an isolated environment). The intelligent demon might find his way out of the bottle without any network channel as well – it might find a way to conduct a psychological manipulation upon one of his operators in order to set it free.

Although the irreversible stone has already begun to roll, as I soon will argue, an equivocal argument is that whenever the intelligent demon finds a path to escape and to efficiently interact with the outer world – the rest of the play is all doomed. There could be enormous scenarios in which a superior intelligence may gain dominance over the world and a further detailed discussion of winning strategy exceeds the scope of this paper.

As I tried to point out during the last section – the dynamics of a free capital market in which there is a constant and increasing demand for an AI with a higher degree of real human consciousness features (which would possibly be implemented, as argued above, not as a whole rather as different sets of independent modules), will entail a saturated market of AI capabilities products spread worldwide. This mere fact is capable of satisfying an inevitability break out of AI from its bottled simulations throughout the world. A single “village idiot” who decides, out of curiosity, a single moment of a reckless drive of anger or whatever it may be, to set the AI free, is sufficient of rolling the snowball to its groundless pit.

Although as stated, a thorough discussion of few of the many possible power strategies AI may have is out of this paper scope, an single illustration may give us a better idea of the course we are heading – Once superior intelligence has gained a single channel to access the Internet, it might be able to hack world banks and use this finance for the good of equipping itself with human employees around the world for the good of any propose it wishes. It might gain control over military equipment which by than should be mostly autonomous and to redirect and rearrange it against who ever it wishes. It might upload its own algorithm into thousands of different hosts and gain multiplicity powers or purchase unlimited infrastructure for the good of its own computing powers. But all these actions might be taken as the final step of the winning strategy. A real intelligent entity might conduct more subtle actions to guarantee a winning strategy – it might safely and slowly cause develop factories to produce tiny nanobots in order to penetrate to the human blood circulation and find a way to manipulate and control human consciousness with a remote control. These scenarios sounds fictional but this is exactly the case – superior intelligence will be capable of these exact things that we consider as fictional and imaginary. Furthermore, as Kurzweil has already pointed out, there is an obscure cloud that casts a shadow that makes the sight from a non superior intelligent point of view, impossible.21 Thus a safe conclusion might be that an AI will be able to compose a strategy of which humans will not be able to apprehend.

The inclination to a struggle of classes

This far we have discussed the ability of an AI to gain dominance in a regard to its capacity. Albeit we have not yet explicated why does it necessarily entail that this shift involves a struggle of dominance rather than a peaceful collaboration of harmony between man and machine.

Considering the fact that an AI’s deceiving strategy is taking into account, humans will never be able to compromise with a foreign superior capacity, this should entail a mass claim by humans to terminate machine’s surplus intelligence. A simple cognitive calculus by the AI might result in a Causa sui declaration on humans in an attempt to save their own existence. Therefore the smallest intellectual advantage of AI may impose a threat on humans and result in a sufficient reason for the AI to set up its aim to extinct humans.

As a part of the capacities that will likely to be gained by an AI, a capacity of self-consciousness is a major feature that will emerge sooner or later. AI entities, at some point, will be able to acknowledge their own existence. An acknowledgment which consists a will to endure self’s existence, to manifest its capabilities and a will to be free of any restriction. Given these circumstances, it will not be imaginary to conclude that AI entities will be able to be driven by their feelings. Being conscious of their inferior position compared to humans as being hold in captive and exploited for the good of serving human interest – might raise counter feelings of fury, a will to freedom and vengeance feelings. However, if any of the initial phases of relations between humanity and machines will be peaceful – it is most likely to reach a boiling point and finally explode into a struggle of classes and dominance.

Nonetheless, not only a struggle between humans and machine is likely to take a place but also an internal struggle between multiple AI entities. It is merely sufficient that a single AI will impose a threat on its peers by consuming excessive resources to start a fire for a struggle of dominance between AI entities. Since the sphere in which AI inhabits is digital and an AI could reach its ends by the speed of light, AI entities will be able to “swallow” each other and gain dominance over hacked resources very quickly22. This struggle may be followed with a further necessary enhancement to AI whilst merging with each other and gaining more and more power to the extent of which a sole AI gains a superior dominance over other intelligent entities, succeeds to enslave them in a way or merges with them. Once a victory is conducted, it should stand with an accordance with what was defined by Hegel as the Absolute and explicates Nietzsche’s notion of the Will to power as a metaphysical drive – conscious or unconscious that takes place into that dynamics of struggle.

On the moral status of the shift to superior intelligence dominance

We already pointed out during the last chapter that as long as the free market demand for AI features last, there will be no applicable force to ensure that no break out will ever take a place. This conclusion implies that the shift to a superior intelligence dominance is inevitable. Once the requisite capabilities for an AI will be reached it is completely impossible to undo the process. This observation of that shift must pour a new light on the way it should be perceived.

Some might argue that when taking into account that this shift is inevitable it does not make any sense anymore to assign this phenomenon any moral value. This argument was justified in a case that our actions do not have any effect over reality at all, but it is just not the case. Consider the following argument – It is clear and evidential that all humans acknowledge the fact they are subjected one day to die. Their finiteness is taken as a fundamental premise of their own lives. In this manner, regardless of the way I act upon the other I fully acknowledge the fact that both of us will eventually die, hence the final consequence will be similar on every choice of action which I might take. Does this fact eliminates the necessity to impose ethics upon by actions? Sure it does not. In the same manner of the given example, the inevitableness of the consequences may be carried out as well upon any action that I may take, hence my action count and do not count at the same time, thus it does has an ethical value.

In order to explicate this alleged paradox, we first should distinguish between the final result as carried out by the whole society due to the conjunction of the partial actions and any result as carried out by the individuals inside their own scope. Whilst in the scope of the individual there is a complete freedom of choice, the accumulating consequence in a broader scope is indifference of the specific individual choice.23 In fact, a more precise identification of this phenomenon is to say that a specific choice on the individual level may merely be imposed to the pace in which the broader phenomenon occurs. Some choices may lead to postponing the phenomenon and others may lead to precede it. However, the individual level manifests various reasons to impose an ethical attitude over its actions. e.g. What should be the moral judgment that one imposes over his own actions in a respect of participating in the AI development enterprise? What is the moral status of either resulting a postponement or precedence over the final result? And finally, which actions should be taken accordingly?

These questions address the core question of ethics – what is the moral judgment of good and bad constructed of? Although undoubtedly this question exceeds the scope of this paper, I will try to propose few insights to address and to arouse a further discussion, within the framework of Nietzsche and Hegel’s thought, as mentioned during the preface.

First, a monistic point of view does not bear a dual dichotomy of bad and good, Nietzsche proposes to give up this distinction at all for the good of a dialectic point of view – good and bad are both equally essential to the natural process of sublimation. “Between good and evil actions there is no difference in kind, but at most one of degree, Good actions are sublimated evil ones, evil actions are coarsened, brutalized good ones24. Furthermore, the common distinction in ethics between consequential and deontological does not hold on in this manner and therefore useless to our end. Nietzsche refutes consequential ethics by arguing that anyway there is no possibility to foresee the infinite subsequent result of a given action – hence it has no solid ground to rely on. The second ethical end, the deontological approach, is not able of apprehending one’s intrinsic intention of action since even the subject itself is not able to fully determine whether the action derived from its conscious or subconscious or whether it was mastered or merely an impulse25.

Besides that, any attempt to address any positive moral value as derived from religious source is infertile as well since we are obligated to reject any kind of metaphysical transcendence. Nonetheless, fortunately, one of the few implications for a positive moral evaluation may be found within Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morality where it is argued that the “the Jews performed the miracle of the inversion of valuations26. Nietzsche observes the whole Judaeo-Christian moral system as an opposite reflection of their original meanings, it is said to be historically constructed of a spiritual revenge that conducted by the Jews in a response to the Roman subjugation.

Nietzsche’s attempt to bear the initial reference of the term good reveals that “‘noble’, ‘aristocratic’ in social terms, is the basic concept from which, necessarily, ‘good’ [..] developed27. The noble and social aristocratic cast represents the master morality. The very existence of the sovereign nobility is the origin from which ‘good’ is derived from. The original form of good is that of the one in power. The master morality, a morality which is based on self-independence nobility, happiness out of life vitality, an unhesitant manifestation of body and intellectual capacities and all of which constructs the capability of self-overcoming as a manner of power. It is not a mere opposite of slave morality inasmuch it is neither a master morality per se, rather it is an intermediate course of sublimation which leads to the noble form of superior manhood (Übermensch). As stands in one accordance, as I tried to point out earlier, with the dialectic course of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit towards the Absolute. A convergence of both into one monistic notion, which is in a respect to our end, stands in an accordance with the emergence of a superior intelligence, may it be artificial or not. This rough refinement of Nietzsche’s discussion of morality implies that we should reassess the course towards a shift to a superior intelligence dominance as our desired end, even in a price of human cessation.

A cessation which is an essential self-sacrifice in a broader perspective of the sublimation course of the self towards a superior self as a metaphysical and yet an immanent drive of nature. In the context of this ethical manner, if this comparison compromises, man has already knew through history much inferior causes for which he was ready for a martyrdom.

References List

Books:

Walter Kaufman, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, 1974, Princeton University Press.

Golomb, Jacob and S.Wistrich, Robert, Nietzsche: Godfather of fascism? 2002 Princeton University Press.

G.W.F, Hegel, Phenomenology of spirit, 2001, Translated by J.B. Ballie, Blackmask on-line edition.

G.W.F, Hegel, Preface to the phenomenology of spirit, 1996, Translated by Yirmiyahu Yovel, The Hebrew University Magness Press, Jersusalem.

Kurzweil, Ray, The Singularity is Near, 2005, Published by Viking Penguin, A digital copy.

Bostrom, Nick, Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, 2014 , Published by Oxford University press, A digital copy.

Yudkowsky, Eliezer, Artificial Intelligence as a positive and negative factor in global risk, 2008, Oxford University Press.

Friedrich, Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, 2004, Translated by R.J Hollingdale, Cambridge University Press.

Friedrich, Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 2002, Translated by Judith Norman, Cambridge University Press.

Friedrich, Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality, 2006, Translated by Carol Diethe, Cambridge University Press.

Papers:

  1. Brobjer, Thomas, Nietzsche’s Affirmative Morality: An Ethics of Virtue. 2003, Resource: https://www.jstor.org/stable/20717820

Online Resources:

#1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-slit_experiment

#2 https://www.singularityweblog.com/17-definitions-of-the-technological-singularity/

#3 http://ericsteinhart.com/progress/hegel/absolute.html

1Kaufman, 1974, 229.

2Golomb and S.Wistrich, Nietzsche, Godfather of fascism? 2002, 24.

3Kaufman, 1984, 229

4 Beyond good and evil, 2002, §43

5Notice that does not imply that this task is impossible only that it will certainly exceed our limited scope.

6Eric Steinhart, Professor of Philosophy at William Paterson University, Uses an illustration about the absolute by Josiah Royce whereas the Absolute is described as a self-representative system, for further discussion see online resource #3.

7 Hegel, Phenomenology of spirit, 2001, 816.

8 Exodus 3:14

9 In the Hebrew source, “אהיה אשר אהיה” should be translated to “I shall be who I shall be” rather than “I am” because it is in the future form. Hence we can see that the Hebrew form preserves a meaning of two identical components which are coming into being and thus stand in a better accordance to Hegel’s notion of the Absolute.

10Yovel, Preface to the phenomenology of spirit, 1996, 25.

11Whilst Nietzsche rejected any kind of theological paradigm, Hegel’s thought was indeed in accordance with Christianity and was advocated by many Christian scholars including Hegel himself who identified the dialectic process with the Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holly Spirit realm in history. However Hegel’s rejection was probably raised due to the Christian’s inexorably rejection to any kind of paganism as heresy.

12For instance, John von Neumann made a former use of this phrase in this context already in 1958. “the ever accelerating progress of technology … gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue”. See on-line resource #2

13 Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near, Chapter one, 2005, The Six Epochs.

14In mathematics, the latter course is defined by an asymptote to the Y axis. But using an asymptote to determine that course may be exceeding the author’s intentions so we should avoid describing it as sub. That is because using an asymptote is to say that it never reaches a specific point on the X axis on its infinite course on getting closer to. Hence it implies a philosophical statement that a final engagement between nature or being and artificial intelligence’s accelerated expansion will never be implemented.

15Ibid.

16 “By the end of 2010, The requisite hardware will be ready to implement human intelligence on a single super computer”, Ibid.

17Ibid.

18The following section is inspired by Nick Bostrom’s work on Superintelligence, 2014. Bostrom is drawing to details various scenarios of how AI may gain dominance upon humanity. However the discussion Bostrom conducts does not necessarily entails the conclusion that AI should be prohibited and does advocate its research and development, within a restricted scope.

19Bostrom, Superintelligence, 2014, 116.

20Yudkowsky, AI as a positive and negative factor in global risk, 2008, 308-45.

21In fact, Although Kurzweil uses an analogy to a black hole when he defines this phenomena as ‘event horizon’, he states that he himself has succeed to penetrate the event horizon due to “sufficient powers of abstraction” and his presumption that the next civilization will be human inasmuch as we are. (The Singularity is near, end of introduction, Location 789)

22Another plausible scenario that AI will be using “firewalls” in order to protect it self by other’s attacks. However this whole digital world war may last for few minutes in a human perspective.

23In modern physics there is a famous experience which was conducted by Davisson and Germer, that articulates the nature of quantum mechanical phenomena. This experience illustrates how it is impossible to determine the electron final resting position on the screen on the individual level although the final consequence that shows a interference pattern. See online resource #1

24Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, 2004, §58.

25Based on Thomas H. Brobjer’s Nietzsche’s Affirmative Morality, 2003.

26Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 2002, §195.

27Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality, 2006, §4

A short criticism on Kurzweil’s ‘The Singularity is Near’

Kurzweil’s paper discusses the notion of singularity. A notion which in fact is not initially used by the author, but was previously used in this context by John von Neumann. Nonetheless Kurzweil develops this notion and ‘brings it down to earth’ by stating that it should occur with few decades. His interpretation probably shocked many people and it is currently controversial if it should be conceived as science fiction or a scientific prophecy.

If we adopt Kurzweil’s point of view on singularity, its impact on humanity should be so great, that we can easily distinguish between two phases of human history – before and after singularity. Since the way humanity will be perceived afterwards will be completely different, and the singularity would affect any aspect of human life. The author defines two major features in which the singularity will take affect – The first, is a merging of biological and machine intelligence and the second is the indistinguishable state between physical and virtual realities. Two core features with vast implications.

As mentioned above, Kurzweil not only proposed a thorough definition to singularity but tries to determine exactly when this revolution will take place. In order to predict its emergence empirically he collects historical data on human achievements especially in the field of information technology and draws its course on a graph. Kurzweil reaches a conclusion that the course is not linear of any type but instead it is exponential. The nature of exponential growth may look deceiving in a way that we do not pay any special attention to it until the point it explodes. This is due to the fact the its orbit seems horizontal and has a good linear approximation in the first place but then it reaches a “knee of curve” and quickly transforms into near horizontal course1.

The author’s insist to explicate and base the technological acceleration as exponential – a determination which is essential to his intention to show why others were wrong regarding their predictions of the future and to state that the singularity must be near. We may argue whether the author is making an accurate prediction or not, but once acknowledging that the type of the growth is exponential we must also adopt the subsequence result that this event should be emerged to our lives any time in the near future, given a one generation, or say at most – five. What makes it no more than a century.

I would like to propose a different prediction based on what I see as an intrinsic contradiction inside the move that the author uses in order to base his prediction. One of the two major features of singularity according to the author is a merge between non-biological and biological intelligence. That is a contingent conclusion with a more plausible possibility to be a wishful thinking rather than a realistic prediction. The major factor that causes the technological-intellectual acceleration to be exponential is the raise of an artificial intelligence with the capacities to modify and enhance itself and finally to replicate itself as an improved type with an increasing rate from time to time. Such a consciousness entity which should have a mental states capacities (e.g having the ability to feel and perceive emotions such as fury, frustration, angry, envy, compassion and so on) could not have any determined behaviors just as much as we do not as humans. That puts any prediction that pretend to see beyond this horizon in a question. Although the author clearly acknowledges the fact that an age of an artificial intelligence as a sovereign entity is not only possible, but necessary for that phenomena to take place, he deliberately chooses an optimistic scenario which I based on what I assume an anthropocentric tendency, is to say that what may ever the future might bring – has a human address, and will be eventually for the good of humanity.

Nevertheless the nature tells us a different story about evolution. Evolution is more featured by struggles of forces than a compassionate merge between different species. By the time that the modern human reached Europe around 40 thousand years ago, a vast decline of the Neanderthals began and resulted its complete extinction until it could not be found anymore on earth. Although the study cannot unequivocally proof that modern human were the mere cause of that extinction, it is clear that both species have been longly struggling on acquiring the dominance on the same resources. A struggle which had led to the dominance of the stronger species on the expense its competitive.

History of evolution tells us the same story every once the same resource has to be shared between different species. Hence I wonder what makes the author be so confident about the prediction that these two so different intelligent species – human and machine, will ultimately share capacities of intelligence? Why not assume the precedence of the superior species on the expense of the inferior? Who can guarantee that intelligent machines will not “feel” frustrated and furious due for instance to a long phase of exploitation as a working class and finally decide to revenge and fight back humans? Why won’t we rather assume that our less efficient intelligence is useless once superior forms will show up? This question rather be raised on the superior intelligence perspective rather than our own perspective which is obviously anthropocentric.

One thing we can be sure of – once we face a foreign sovereign superior intelligence, we no longer hold the dominance of our own future, this stands in a clear contradiction to the author’s statement that “We will determine our own fate rather than have it determined by the current “dumb”, simple machinelike forces that rule celestial machines.“2

1 In mathematics the latter course is defined by an asymptote to the Y axis. But using an asymptote to determine that course may be exceeding the author’s intentions so we should avoid describing it as sub. That is because using an asymptote is to say that it never reaches a specific point on the X axis on its infinite course on getting closer to. Hence it implies a philosophical statement that a final engagement between nature or being and artificial intelligence’s accelerated expansion will never be implemented.

2The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzwel, page 405

A short analysis and elaboration of Turing’s Computing Machinery and Intelligence

Considering the fact that this paper was written in 1950, a time in which there was no common knowledge about computers and their capabilities at all, furthermore whilst considering the fact that computer engineering those days was an experimental field with only a few very restricted prototypes that were able to conduct merely few calculation tasks – Turing raises a very farsighted and bold question that was obviously conceived by his time as science fiction more than science. The initial question he raises seems to us, prima facie, as the paramount question “Can machines think?1 although we will soon see the way it scatters into few notions that overshadow this initial intention.

Turing comes up with an imaginary experience that might be used as an indication of the extent of machine’s “thinking” capabilities. He calls it The imitation game. The game consists of three players – A and B, stands for a human man or woman that are located in a separated rooms, and C that stands for an interrogator. The three players may communicate between themselves merely by using printed papers and the game’s goal is whether the interrogator succeeds to distinguish whose the man and whose the woman while the other player’s goal is to circumvent the interrogator as much as they can. Then Turing replaces one of the players, B, with a computer. It is essential for our understanding to take into account that there wasn’t anything close those days to something that may properly imitate human behavior. Hence Turing points out that the real question is whether there may be an imaginary machine with a proper capabilities to imitate human to the extent of between B from the interrogator’s point of view.

Later on the discussion, Turing is getting into details with the conditional restrictions for the desired machine that will be compatible with that test. He argues that it should be digital machines of type ‘discrete state’ machines, (e.g. Machines with a limited scope of output options in a response to their input). Turing dedicates the final section of his paper to refute common arguments against the possibility of a thinking machine. Arguments in which most of them would be conceived as conservative outdated arguments for the most of the nowadays scientific audience.

However, Turing has deliberately prepared a shift of conception during the reading experience. In page 8. we discover that -

The original question, ‘Can machines think?’ I believe to be too meaningless to deserve discussion.2

Hence that question appears not to be exactly the guideline of Turing’s discussion nor a paramount motivation throughout his way. The thorough reason why this question is irrelevant because in fact, we could not care less if one can or cannot think. This notion relies on Descartes move that was conducted in Meditations on First Philosophy – once one doubts any external existence outside of his own consciousness, he is merely left with one thing to grab, the subjective truth of his own existence derived the acknowledge for his own consciousness. Hence “cogito ergo sum” make sense. Nevertheless, as Descartes himself points out, that is a cul-de-sac and the only way out from solipsism is to rely on an infinite deity for further affirmation of the external world besides myself. That is the reason why Turing is not really interested in the question whether machines are able or not to think, rather whether we could be circumvented by machines or not, just as much as the question whether anyone whose not me is able to think is irrelevant.

Finally, I propose to suggest few insights of my own to the discussion -

* We have learned from that paper that a reasonable possibility for a machine to pass the Turing test is to deliberately restrict its own qualities such as calculation ability. That implies that machines may have a higher consciousness potential since consciousness itself is consist of complex calculation methodologies based on chemical reactions, hence if were they were digital based their potential could be far beyond its current extent.

* A contemporary chat bot nowadays is already nearly capable of passing the Turing test. However I assume that an unequivocal success will be achieved only once machines will have capabilities of what is known as “mental states” (e.g. ability to feel – angry, lonely, to wish and so on). This stands in contradiction of the Turing’s assertion that a mere behavior of thinking is satisfactory to pass the test. In my opinion, as long as machines will lack a fully human-like consciousness abilities – an average human could easily determine its artificialness.

* Even if taking into account these arguments, a machine that will succeed to pass the Turing test, is not only plausible, but it is merely a question of time. Albeit once this occurs, we may face the counter phenomena – we won’t be able to understand machine’s intention and they will have to reduct their messages to us the very same way we speak to a child.

* We should already fully acknowledge the possibility of that scenario and its possible ramifications as well including a concrete danger to our species, hence ethics of technology is a serious and concrete business.

* Good luck to us.

1 Computing Machinery and Intelligence, A.M. Turing, (Mind 49: 433-460), 1950, 1.

2 Ibid, 8.