Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Artificial Intelligence

Part 1:

Part 2:

How should we relate to artificially intelligent entities?

Guest: Tom Barbalet of the podcast.


Blogger Anthony said...

Yet another great episode! What a great brain trust you've assembled.

Analogous to Turing's test for machine intelligence, you might as well propose the "Apologia" test for godhood. The test would have have something to do with observing the ability to create intelligent life. But is a perfect understanding of the creative process a necessary characteristic of the creator? If so, then analogous to John Searle's Chinese room, the test is foiled by the fact that humans have been creating intelligent life since time immemorial. If not, then humans already qualify for godhood.

I don't see an important difference between ordinary human reproduction and the manufacturing of "Blade Runner" replicants. There's no clear reason why genetic manipulation would make a subject less human.

I also don't understand why there's any conflict between Christian theology and the potential for humans to create intelligent life. As I said, we already create intelligent life on a regular basis, yet Christians attribute that to God. If we find a way to create intelligent life outside the normal reproductive process, why couldn't Christians attribute that to God just as easily? Just call us God's agents.

6/29/08, 4:24 PM  
Blogger Jean-Michel Abrassart said...

It was a very interresting episode, even if I think that sometimes you didn't explain enough for lay people, who don't know anything about the subject beforehand. I must say I was lost sometimes, just because of some technical words you were using, without explaining them. Guess I'm not nerdy enough... LOL

Keep the good work.

7/1/08, 8:17 PM  
Blogger J. Daniel Sawyer said...

Sorry about the technical language - - any points we might be able to clarify for you?

7/2/08, 1:32 AM  
Blogger Jean-Michel Abrassart said...


Well, you could have Tom Barbalet back on the show and have him explain AI 101. LOL.

Anyway, I listened to the second part and it was a lot easier. I'm a big fan of the "Ghost in the Shell" manga (and anime), so if you haven't read it, I really think you should. Having humans who download their consciousness in completely artificial bodies on one side, and robots who reach the point of consciousness on the other, they really discuss the question of the limit: what would be the difference between those two? Very very interresting stuff...


7/3/08, 8:43 PM  
Blogger J. Daniel Sawyer said...

The field of Artificial Intelligence is even more fragmented than the field of Christian Apologetics - a big reason is that it sits at the intersection of consciousness research, philosophy, engineering, computer science, and mathematics. The most relevant sources of the terminology we used a lot of can be found in the classic work on consciousness "Society of Mind" by Marvin Minsky, and in Daniel Dennet's "Kinds of Minds," in which he deals, though briefly, with the problem of recognizing artificial general intelligence if/when it emerges.

If you're not up for doing that much serious reading, you can get a pretty good quick-and-dirty grasp of the vocabulary by watching through the 2006 and 2007 Singularity Institute conferences, both available on Google Video and on the Singularity Institute website at


7/7/08, 3:19 AM  
Blogger Gridane said...

In part I at around 27min the following claim was made " we've got machines that pass Turing test all the time.." This claim was not challenged by anyone. Could you please provide references to back up this claim?

7/27/08, 7:19 PM  
Blogger Leonard said...

Sorry to post this so belatedly, but it seems pretty obvious to me that the ability to fashion new sentient life from pre-existent physical elements, or the ability to alter current human biochemical processes in such a way as to slow or stop aging doesn't really bring us very close to most Christians' formulation of God, at least as far as I understand it (I've been persistently agnostic for most of my life).

In comparing ourselves with the Christian God, we still lack the ability to create an entirely new universe of contingent beings, independent of our own, ex-nihilo.

And, even if we stop the aging process, if any of the "Big Crunch", "Heat Death", or cyclic models of the universe turn out to be correct, none of us will be able to survive to see the final or next state of the universe.

Even if we live in one of the various proposed endless universes, if we don't innovate fast enough to get ourselves to a different habitable planet before our sun enters its red giant phase, we're not going to survive that physical process either.

So, as my man Han Solo would say regarding the technical marvels we're accomplishing and working towards, "Great, kid! Don't get cocky".

8/18/08, 11:34 PM  

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