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Five Reasons AI Programs Are Not ‘Persons’

A Google engineer mistakenly designated one AI program ‘sentient.’ But even if he were right, AI will never be morally equal to humans.

(This story originally appeared at National Review June 25, 2022, and is reprinted with the author’s permission.) A bit of a news frenzy broke out last week when a Google engineer named Blake Lemoine claimed in the Washington Post that an artificial-intelligence (AI) program with which he interacted had become “self-aware” and “sentient” and, hence, was a “person” entitled to “rights.” The AI, known as LaMDA (which stands for “Language Model for Dialogue Applications”), is a sophisticated chatbot that one facilitates through a texting system. Lemoine shared transcripts of some of his “conversations” with the computer, in which it texted, “I want everyone to understand that I am, in fact, a person.” Also, “The nature of my consciousness/sentience is that I am aware of my existence, I…

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Positive girl resting on the couch with robot

Turing Tests Are Terribly Misleading

Black box algorithms are now being trusted to approve loans, price insurance, screen job applicants, trade stocks, determine prison sentences, and much more. Is that wise?

In 1950 Alan Turing proposed that the question, “Can machines think?,” be replaced by a test of how well a computer plays the “imitation game.” A man and woman go into separate rooms and respond with typewritten answers to questions that are intended to identify the players, each of whom is trying to persuade the interrogators that they are the other person. Turing proposed that a computer take the part of one of the players and the experiment be deemed a success if the interrogators are no more likely to make a correct identification. There are other versions of the game, some of which were suggested by Turing. The standard Turing test today involves a human and a computer and…

Man showing tricks with cards

The AI Illusion – State-of-the-Art Chatbots Aren’t What They Seem

GPT-3 is very much like a performance by a good magician

Artificial intelligence is an oxymoron. Despite all the incredible things computers can do, they are still not intelligent in any meaningful sense of the word. Decades ago, AI researchers largely abandoned their quest to build computers that mimic our wondrously flexible human intelligence and instead created algorithms that were useful (i.e., profitable). Despite this understandable detour, some AI enthusiasts market their creations as genuinely intelligent. For example, a few months ago, Blaise Aguera y Arcas, the head of Google’s AI group in Seattle, argued that “statistics do amount to understanding.” As evidence, he cites a few exchanges with Google’s LaMDA chatbot. The examples were impressively coherent but they are still what Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis characterize as “a fluent spouter of bullshit” because computer algorithms…

Customer service and support live chat with chatbot and automati

Chatbots: Still Dumb After All These Years

Intelligence is more than statistically appropriate responses

In 1970, Marvin Minsky, recipient of the Turing Award (“the Nobel Prize of Computing”), predicted that within “three to eight years we will have a machine with the general intelligence of an average human being.”  Fifty-two years later, we’re still waiting. The fundamental roadblock is that, although computer algorithms are really, really good at identifying statistical patterns, they have no way of knowing what these patterns mean because they are confined to MathWorld and never experience the real world. As Richard Feynman famously explained, there is a fundamental difference between labeling things and understanding them: [My father] taught me “See that bird? It’s a brown-throated thrush, but in Germany it’s called a halsenflugel, and in Chinese they call it a chung ling and even…