The phenomenology of the Turing test

Can machines think?  Not yet, however soon they will. Place a powerful  computer (network)  with  the Google knowledge base behind a screen, interrogate  it and you won’t be able to distinguish its response from that of a human.  By the way,  you interrogate the computer  using text formatted linguistic input. This is the essence of the Turing test. With Google at hand, soon it will be even smarter than you.

Turing believed that appropriately programmed computer can think.  Or better  the computer simulates thinking which cannot be distinguished from your thinking. The digital computer does not posses intelligence, it simulates it. Some believe that soon  it will simulate a mind or even consciousness. All you need is a powerful computer, and since computer hardware develops exponentially (Moore’s law), soon conscious computers (agents, robots) will hop around.  

This wishful thinking illustrates yet another shortcoming of AI (Artificial Intelligence)  reasoning, Anthropomorphism. The other, “Cartesian Slumber”, was discussed in a previous chapter.

Following the Creator who created us in His image, AI seeks to create machines in the human  image. The only meaningful intelligence is human. Which is the rational behind the Turing’s test, which tests  a dis-embodied intelligence. What about a Turing test which allows us to talk to the computer?  Since voice reveals emotions, we might easily spot the culprit (simulator). Will the future computer simulate emotions? Since emotions require embodiment, the question has to be rephrased, how to create an embodied zombie which will fake (simulate) emotions?  Yet another anthropomorphism.

Is swarm intelligence a real intelligence or a misnomer? Does an ameba possess an  intelligence despite not being able to convey it to us?  AI would dismiss such speculations as nonsense.  Let’s turn therefore to Hans Jonas’ “The phenomenon of Life” (1): Plants,  animals and the human animal display an ascending development of organic functions and capabilities. The emergence of the human mind does not mark a great divide within nature but elaborates what is prefigured throughout the life-world. The organic even in its lowest forms prefigures mind, and  the mind even on its highest reaches remains part of the organic.

In other words, the organic even in its lowest forms prefigures intelligence, which shapes also  the human  intelligence.  AI ought to study first the intelligence of an ameba. Simulate it and model it. This basic model may then serve as an initial state from which intelligence, and even consciousness might emerge. Such an endeavor requires a new kind of programming tool different from what is known today. It might look like the one  which I apply in my CA studies. You plant two zygotes which evolve into a stable system with emerging and unpredictable properties.

Additional reading Robot mind


1. Hans Jonas  The Phenomenon of Life- Toward a Philosophical Biology
Northwestern University Press Evanston  Ill  2001

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