Where Is HAL?

It’s been 43 years since artificial-intelligence innovator Herbert Simon claimed that in 20 years machines would be capable of doing any work that a man can do.

Hollywood thought it would be done by the year 2001.

Mankind is a curious being, full of inconsistancies and unacknowledged frailties.

On one hand we are so very full of our own ability, claiming that we can create intelligence equal to our own. On the other, we have such a dim view of ourselves, claiming an intelligence equal to ours can be created, by us.

Defining artificial intelligence as non-organic, human-created machines capable of independent thought, cognition, and self-awareness, we find ourselves woefully short of our stated goals and claimed abilities.

Network World magazine, June 23rd 2008 edition, says that while the whole dream as one realized entity, a truly intelligent robot, is still far off, many of the individual parts and technologies are already developed. But with a very telling by-line perhaps you’ll see the issue:

The grand promise of intelligent machines underestimated the complexity of reproducing human cognition.

The irony is heavy surrounding this.

The last two centuries have been a progression of the understanding of human cognition. From the age of reason through the psychoanalysis of Frued and Williams, we have broken down our own minds and thought processes until we believe them to be simply incredibly deep chains of logic switches. We put lots of logic switches on silicon wafers and fed electrical pulses through pathways signifying instructions and found our creations could process commands: input and output.

We made them faster and faster until we thought that with the proper instructions these processing cores could, with the proper instruction sets, become artificially intelligent.

We assumed that human kind is simply a more evolved animal with deeper instruction sets, more complex preprogrammed responses. But with each new iteration of technological improvement, we are becoming more aware than ever of the gulf seperating us from our machines.

I will go out on a limb here and state that even if we had forever, humans will never build a machine that is artificially intelligent.

We will make things seem to be intelligent, but they will all boil down to increasingly complex instruction sets compiled by humans and limited by the very myopic view of our existence which leads us to believe we can actually create intelligence, and will fail in our ultimate goal.

The reason is that we are not solely the result of random processes creating complex logical structures around an organic adapted structure. But we are beings which exist here and hereafter with logic, yes, but also with will and emotions and moral reckoning.

There will always be a gulf between us and our creations: we cannot breathe life into anything.

Leave a Reply