Thursday, January 26, 2012

Adam and Eve as AI

I actually wrote a very similar post to this before, but it was five years ago so I don't feel so bad about repeating myself.

According to the Bible, in the beginning God made a bunch of stuff and then created man and woman. He turned them loose and told them to name things, take care of things, and generally be in charge. 

Jump forward however many years you think are appropriate and you have now. We're working on developing computers with an artificial intelligence. There is a question, however, as to what "intelligence" means. So far AIs tend to be restricted to single tasks. Winning chess games (straight up logic). Playing Jeopardy (context recognition, data sorting, selection of most likely answer). Controlling the behavior of the guards in video games. Things like that. None of which would be likely to survive long if released into the wild to fend for itself. Granted, most of us couldn't survive in the wild, but you get what I'm saying. They do what they do and nothing else.

To be fair, there are some tiny virtual cockroaches that do a bang up impression of actual cockroaches. They may actually be able to survive and multiply if they were given the ability to reproduce and released into the walls of a high school lunch room.

My point is that, while it has some remarkable data parsing skills, Watson is still a computer that is following a program. He can't ad lib. He can't get stage fright. He can't make his own decisions. He can't go against his programming. If you or I went on Jeopardy we could give it our best shot because we want the money. We could also start insulting Alex Trebek's mother or practicing our standup routine. Watson could only answer the questions to the best of it's ability, not decide to hook up with a cute little Lisa and run off to Spain. 

Even the AIs in Skyrim are disappointing compared to the AIs in the Thief games. If I put an arrow through someone in Skyrim they'll go looking for me and eventually decided they were hearing things. That arrow sticking out of his chest is a figment of his imagination. But in Thief they'll start investigating if they just hear your footsteps. If they find a corpse or there's an arrow sticking out of them they will never ever stop looking for you. They'll even get others to help.

I'll be impressed as hell when we have a robot that can do accounting or paint or be a dentist. But I don't think it'll be intelligent until it can decide to quit it's job as an accountant to go start it's own accounting firm. Or, better yet, when it can get fired from it's job for embezzling funds so he can spend it's out of warranty years surfing and scuba diving in Tahiti. 

This is where we get back to my original point and what I was on about five years ago. God had filled the planet will all kinds of animals with low level AIs. Grow, decompose dead material, eat, mate, attack, hide, etc. Nothing revolutionary. But God wanted something that he didn't have to pay attention to. Those neanderthals were doing alright, but they weren't going anywhere. They kept making the same tools over and over. Not much in the way of creativity. Whether he was working with a new model or a select pair or neanderthals doen't matter, but God introduced a computer worm (i.e. serpent). It tweaked Eve's programming a bit so she was able to ask "well, why shouldn't I eat the fruit? Because Gaaaawd told me not to? Screw that." And she defied given instructions ate the apple. 

That's the important part. The "defied given instructions" part. And it means that the serpent wasn't Satan or an agent thereof as our sunday school teachers told us (note that the Bible says no such thing). Yes, the first humans defied God's will, but it was God's will that we defy God's will. The whole bit with the forbidden fruit was a test to see if the given programming was intelligence or simply another machine following orders. It was a final beta test before final release outside of Eden.

Mind you, I don't believe a word of this. But, if someday I do find religion and it's roughly Biblically inspired this is what I'm gonna be believing. That's a whole lot of ifs.

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