[lit-ideas] Re: The Answering Machine

  • From: John McCreery <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 13 Jan 2012 17:49:10 +0900

The tricky thing here is the way in which the meaning of "machine" is
flowing. In the old view, a machine was something like locomotive, a
collection of parts that move in predictable ways, a model that doesn't at
all fit the unpredictability of both cats and humans. But nowadays, when
computer scientists talk about machines, especially those running
mathematically "complex", not just complicated, simulations unpredictable
stuff happens all the time. Add visual and haptic, maybe even olfactory,
elements to the interfaces, and the line that seems so clear when
contrasting there predictable machines of yore with felines and primates
blurs. Philosophers are forever trying to draw lines in the sand. Then the
wind and tide come along. And the people they thought they were fighting
with are dead or gone off to sip a Corona. This looks like one of those
situations to me.


On Fri, Jan 13, 2012 at 4:58 PM, Eric Yost <mr.eric.yost@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> >> 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.
> I believe the answer to the both questions is "no." Machines cannot
> think like humans for a variety of reasons, including the biological
> basis of one and the mechanical basis of the other. Humans evolved
> with a tendency toward cognitive biases as well as a capacity for
> sudden brilliant intuitions. Humans also evolved to be unpredictable
> (as an evolutionary advantage), and (as cognitive science reveals)
> to make decisions that sometimes precede our conscious monitoring.
> Biology can never be mechanism.
> Julien La Mettrie argued for our machine status long ago in Man, a
> Machine. He also thought cats were machines. Pure rubbish, as any
> cat owner will tell you. The "we're all machines" claim reveals more
> about the psychology of the claimant than about anything else. Poor
> La Mettrie! Making a system about his not paying attention to
> existence.
> Reminds me of Laplace's dream of a super-intelligent mind that could
> predict all of the future by knowing all of the Newtonian facts of
> the present. A sadly refuted notion.
> Both La Mettrie and Laplace were exhibiting creepy motives. What
> disappointment in their lives urged them to explore such questions?
> Should we ask a computer?
> Eric
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John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
Tel. +81-45-314-9324

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