This piece by Gary Smith is intimately related to previous item about Weizenbaum. Smith has been doing his own experiments with AI conversations, and has concluded correctly that computers aren’t rational. He carefully distinguishes rational from logical, just as Weizenbaum and Arendt did.
Smith cites several of Weizenbaum’s contemporaries who reached the opposite conclusion.
In 1960, for example, AI pioneer Herbert Simon, an economics Nobel laureate and Turing Award winner, predicted that “machines will be capable, within twenty years, of doing any work a man can do.” In 1970 Marvin Minsky, also a Turing Award winner, said that, “In from three to eight years we will have a machine with the general intelligence of an average human being.” More recently, in 2015, Mark Zuckerberg said that, “One of our goals for the next five to 10 years is to basically get better than human level at all of the primary human senses: vision, hearing, language, general cognition.”
What’s the difference? Those experts are humans who think like computers. They live in a world of numbers. They see that the computer can beat them at their own number game, and they CAN’T CONCEIVE of another type of thinking. Weizenbaum was capable of thinking like a human.
Minsky and Simon got awards, and now they’re better remembered than Weizenbaum. Why? Because they gave Deepstate the justification for its NUMERICAL rationality.
Back to Weizenbaum:
Even murderous wars have come to be perceived as mere problems to be solved by hordes of professional problemsolvers.
As Hannah Arendt said about recent makers and executors of policy in the Pentagon:
“They were not just intelligent, but prided themselves on being ‘rational’. They were eager to find formulas, preferably expressed in a pseudo-mathematical language, that would unify the most disparate phenomena with which reality presented them; that is, they were eager to discover laws by which to explain and predict political and historical facts as though they were as necessary, and thus as reliable, as the physicists once believed natural phenomena to be. An utterly irrational confidence in the calculability of reality became the leitmotif of the decision making.”
In terms of human talents and tendencies, math and morality are reciprocal.
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I’ve often referred to the African talent for moral rigor, which is more important to human survival than the Oriental talent for math rigor. Our public education system and our industrial and employment policies are totally devoted to math rigor, even though the record is perfectly clear. When we emphasized moral rigor, we had a successful country. Now that moral rigor is illegal, we’re failing fast.
Let’s try to compare those two rigors in a concrete and consequential way.
Tech types and STEM types think moral rigor is nonexistent or irrelevant. Does Nature agree?
What happens when you get a math equation wrong? On paper or in the computer, not much. Nature doesn’t care if you figure the maximum load on a beam incorrectly. But if you use that incorrect number to install an inadequate girder in a bridge or building, Nature will tell you about it, and people will die.
What happens when you get a moral equation wrong? On paper or in the church, not much. Nature doesn’t care if you preach that nations should favor immigrants over natives. But if you use that incorrect judgment to install inadequate borders, Nature will tell you about it, and people will die.
Similarly with other incorrect judgments like “the sole purpose of sex is pleasure”. Nature isn’t bothered when you write books about this idea. Nature doesn’t even care when individuals act on it. But when you use it to install mechanisms like birth control pills, abortion clinics, and day-care instead of parenting, Nature will tell you about it. Society will collapse and millions will die from cancer and crime.
MORALITY IS ANOTHER WORD FOR SURVIVAL.
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