Thursday, October 09, 2008

Artificial intelligence: Computers do not think, they "shuffle bits"

In response to an item I wrote on whether computers really think, friend Gil Dodgen, author of the highly acclaimed computer program, World Championship Checkers (pictured above), writes to say,

As you know, I've been involved in AI programming for many years.

One of my greatest joys was meeting, knowing, and challenging
Marion Tinsley to games of checkers with my computer program. See here:

I could tell you many amazing stories about Tinsley. He was a true genius and prodigy, and a devout born-again Christian. He had a major influence on me, and I had the opportunity to share with him, just shortly before he died, my conversion from atheism to Christianity.

I once told Marion that my computer program doesn't even know it's playing checkers; it just shuffles bits. I mentioned this comment to my programming colleague Ed (with whom I computed the only perfect-play endgame databases for the game of checkers, corrected Jonathan Schaeffer's win-loss-draw databases, and developed a chess-variant program called Gothic Vortex), and Ed dubbed me The Master Bit-Shuffler.

And that's all computer programs do: shuffle bits. This has nothing whatsoever to do with real intelligence or creativity.
That said, a book, One Jump Ahead, has been written about Tinsley's legacy.

And Gil, of all people should know about real intelligence and creativity. He is also a superb piano player, as this will demonstrate.

See also:

Artificial intelligence: Getting computers to pretend to converse is an " extremely hard computational problem"

Conversing with computers, or with their programmers?

Computers: Most engineers must have guessed that they are not robots

Artificial intelligence: A look at things that neither we nor computers can discover

Can a conscious mind be built out of software?

Also: Mind vs. meat vs. computers - the differences Let the machine read your mind (We offer an installment plan!) Mind-computer blend: Who believes in this? Artificial intelligence: Making the whole universe intelligent? Brain cells release information more widely than previously thought.


Artificial intelligence: Getting computers to pretend to converse is an "extremely hard computational problem"

A computer engineer of some importance has written to say that he thinks me a bit off the mark here, where I deny that computers actually think. He writes,
modern computers are often programmed to be adaptive, in that rules are given for learning (e.g, generalizing or updating "beliefs") based on experience. So in fact computers can be (and are) programmed to "learn" things that their programmers don't know.
He argues that behaviorally, this is thinking, but that it does not include consciousness (which means, I suppose, that he disagrees with Kevin Warwick).

He does, however, say,
And the important part that you and I apparently agree on is that there is no compelling reason to believe that a computer program is doing something altogether like what a human being does.
Now, there, he must certainly be right. In the original post, I had discussed a problem I was having with a computer-based book order system that did not allow me to buy ten copies of a book (because no one had thought to program in the possibility of multiple orders).

The stupidest human clerk would have understood immediately.

He is really annoyed with my saying that
Most people will believe that the computer is human if it just sounds wittier or sexier than they do. In fact, the only reason this isn't yesterday's news is that so many computer nerds are inarticulate, and wouldn't have any idea what to program the computer to say.

He calls that "gratuitous" and "wrong!".

Hey, I only said that to see who I would get a rise out of. Turned out to be him, imagine!

Anyway, he advises me that making computers respond convincingly to unscripted dialogue (natural language processing) is "an extremely hard computational problem."

But I am hardly surprised. Dialogue is fiendishly difficult to write well, as my novelist friends aver. It is one reason why I went into non-fiction rather than fiction.


Spirituality: Churches nobody goes to any more vs. the "ancient and ever new" ones

My friend Kathy "Five Feet of Fury" Shaidle uses the expression "churches nobody goes to any more" to describe churches that have lost all contact with spirituality and become seniors' clubs, political gatherings, and such. It works fora while and then it just stops.

One, friend Ed Sisson, explains how his church got targeted by a political organization wanting to use it for the organization's own ends. And he told me why his church said no: "It’s important to send a signal that hate loses in America."

Here's the vid in three parts:


Brain: The turtle really did beat the rabbit, you know ...

MercatorNet “Navigating Modern Complexities” has kindly published my recent article on getting good marks, “The payoff for straining the brain: Does self-discipline beat intelligence? What about a good night’s sleep?”(October 8, 2008):

When researchers examined the final grades of 164 Grade Eight students, together with their acceptance or rejection from a prestigious high school, they found that “scholarly success was more than twice as dependent on assessments of self-discipline as on IQ.” Students with more self-discipline—meaning that they would sacrifice short-term fun for long-term gain—were more likely to improve their marks during the school year than those who wouldn’t sacrifice fun. By contrast, a high IQ did not predict a rise in grades.

Obviously, this won’t surprise an experienced teacher or a mature parent. But it bears repeating all the same: Modern neuroscience is not overturning millennia of experience; it is filling out what the other disciplines already tell us. Our brains are very plastic organs, and paying attention determines the areas in which they develop. Like our bodies, brains must be exercised effectively to achieve our goals. That is why self-discipline is as important to brain exercise as to body exercise.
Go here for the rest.

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