[lit-ideas] Re: The Answering Machine

  • From: John McCreery <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 13 Jan 2012 10:16:44 +0900


Thank you for the quote. I hadn't read this before.


I am myself not particularly interested in debating the reputations of
philosophers qua philosophers. On the whole, I find Popper persuasive. I do
not expect to worship him.

When these debates arise, I am always reminded of what Warren McCulloch,
the father of automata theory, wrote about his work in *Embodiments of
Mind. *I have mentioned this before, but just to refresh our memories.
McCulloch says that his goal is to build machines that do things that
humans can do. Whenever he builds a machine, there are things that humans
do that it cannot do—at which point there are always those who claim, "See,
no machine will ever do what humans can do." McCulloch, he builds another,
better machine.

I note the the following line in the quote with which Robert has provided

In order that tones of voice may not help the interrogator the answers
> should be written, or better still, typewritten.

Here we find an arena in which the work of students of natural language and
virtual realities are converging. The former ask, empirically, not
hypothetically, where does the notion that people have unspoken intentions
come from? The answer, crudely stated, is body language and paralinguistic
features of speech, e.g., tone of voice. Intentions, feelings, internal
conflicts—all are ways we attempt to account for discrepancies between what
people are saying and how they are behaving, as indicated by these
non-linguistic signals. Builders of virtual realities have taken note of
these findings, so that artificial agents, in the form of avatars that
appear in video games, for example, are becoming increasingly lifelike.
They can say one thing and act in ways that contradict what they say,
making it appear that they, too, have intentions, feelings, internal
contradictions. Shrewd observers like Eric can structure questions in ways
that penetrate the mask and reveal the underlying machine; but how this
differs substantially from say, a cartoonist depicting Mitt Romney as a
robot, is hard to say. At the limit of our understanding, the questions
"Can a machine think like a human?" and "Is a human, after all, only a
particular type of machine?" are equally unanswerable, increasingly so in a
world where tangible evidence for one or another is harder and harder to
come by. Turing's age of innocence in which marks on paper were the only
way to conceal the difference or, only a little later, the kinds of voices
imitated by Sting in "Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto, seemed to provide a clear
single that the machine, not a man, was talking is fast disappearing.



On Fri, Jan 13, 2012 at 8:34 AM, Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>wrote:

>   ------------------------------
> *From:* Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
> **
> "Donal wrote
> >> >> A Turing test is based on the idea, you've got this right, that
> >> if you talk with the machine can can't tell the difference between
> >> talking with a machine and talking with a person, you call the
> >> machine intelligent.>>"
> Donal did not write this but quoted it; not that it much matters.
> "John McCreery replied
> > Could be. Turing's point was that if the machine interacted with humans
> in
> > a way indistinguishable from the way other humans did there would be no
> way
> > to tell the difference."
> John was not replying to the words wrongly attributed to me above but to a
> much longer reply that applied World 1, 2 and 3 thinking to the idea of
> machines being able to think.
> Robert refers us to a paper by Turing published in Mind. (This is the same
> Mind that turned down Popper's 'The Poverty of Historicism' but saw fit for
> publication Turing's somewhat tenuous thoughts.) Perhaps it was the novelty
> of computers then that made Mind step back to allow Turing, as an expert in
> computers, to have his say, even though his paper contains material as
> dubious as the following:-
> *9) The Argument from Extrasensory Perception *
> I assume that the reader is familiar with the idea of extrasensory
> perception, and the meaning of the four items of it, viz., telepathy,
> clairvoyance, precognition and psychokinesis. These disturbing phenomena
> seem to deny all our usual scientific ideas. How we should like to
> discredit them! Unfortunately the statistical evidence, at least for
> telepathy, is overwhelming. It is very difficult to rearrange one's ideas
> so as to fit these new facts in. Once one has accepted them it does not
> seem a very big step to believe in ghosts and bogies. The idea that our
> bodies move simply according to the known laws of physics, together with
> some others not yet discovered but somewhat similar, would be one of the
> first to go.
>  This argument is to my mind quite a strong one. One can say in reply
> that many scientific theories seem to remain workable in practice, in spite
> of clashing with ESP; that in fact one can get along very nicely if one
> forgets about it. This is rather cold comfort, and one fears that thinking
> is just the kind of phenomenon where ESP may be especially relevant.
>  A more specific argument based on ESP might run as follows: "Let us play
> the imitation game, using as witnesses a man who is good as a telepathic
> receiver, and a digital computer. The interrogator can ask such questions
> as 'What suit does the card in my right hand belong to?' The man by
> telepathy or clairvoyance gives the right answer 130 times out of 400
> cards. The machine can only guess at random, and perhaps gets 104 right, so
> the interrogator makes the right identification." There is an interesting
> possibility which opens here. Suppose the digital computer contains a
> random number generator. Then it will be natural to use this to decide what
> answer to give. But then the random number generator will be subject to the
> psychokinetic powers of the interrogator. Perhaps this psychokinesis might
> cause the machine to guess right more often than would be expected on a
> probability calculation, so that the interrogator might still be unable to
> make the right identification. On the other hand, he might be able to guess
> right without any questioning, by clairvoyance. With ESP anything may
> happen.
>  If telepathy is admitted it will be necessary to tighten our test up.
> The situation could be regarded as analogous to that which would occur if
> the interrogator were talking to himself and one of the competitors was
> listening with his ear to the wall. To put the competitors into a
> "telepathy-proof room" would satisfy all requirements.
> Now where to begin with this? For starters, perhaps someone could explain
> what is the "overwhelming...statistical evidence..for telepathy"? That
> there is compelling evidence for E.S.P. is certainly discounted by Sir Karl
> in 'The Self and Its Brain', but perhaps Popper simply overlooked the
> simply "overwhelming...statistical evidence"? Whatever the statistical
> evidence, the paper does not suggest that Turing is much of a philosopher,
> though admittedly this might said be of many academic philosophers also.
> Donal
> London

John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
Tel. +81-45-314-9324

Other related posts: