Saturday, October 06, 2007

Don’t talk to me about Artificial Intelligence

My wife was at a function the other night without me and ran into an acquaintance. ‘Your husband is a computer programmer isn’t he?” she asked my wife. “I’d like to talk to him. I just read something about Artificial Intelligence and would like to talk to someone about it.”

“You don’t want to talk to Dave about Artificial Intelligence,” my wife replied.

The reason no one wants to hear my views on the subject is that I don’t believe in it. Among people who are interested in and talk about Artificial Intelligence some are very happy and optimistic about the idea that computers some day may became so intelligent that they no longer need human programmers to tell them how to solve problems. Others say they are fearful and apprehensive about that possibility. It turns out neither group wants to be told that it won’t happen.

You might think that the people who claim to be very worried about something would be relieved and grateful to be reassured that it won’t happen, but when it comes to worries about a future in which computers are more intelligent than their human creators you would be wrong. I’ve given the matter some thought and decided that there are two possible explanations. The first is that people like the feeling of being worried and apprehensive, at least about an exotic and intriguing future. The other possibility is that they are not really fearful and saying that they are is just some sort of conversational gambit – a role in some sort of unscripted human drama in which all the world is a stage and everyone is a player.

I won’t tell you the reasons why I don’t think Artificial Intelligence will ever exist, at least with the kind of digital computers we have now, because, like I said, my wife tells me no one wants to hear my views on that subject.

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