Sunday, August 11, 2013

How do you feel about Artificial Intelligence?

I have not given the concept of artificial intelligence as presented in the novels and video below much thought. Like many people I'm concerned about assembly line robots or computer programs eliminating the need for certain jobs, and what do I do next if I'm one of those people? I hope that I'll be able to adapt and find a different job, in theory something that only a living being could do, but is it really?

I think right now the answer is still yes, adaptation can only be accomplished by something that can make conscious decisions and learn from the results. I'm not up on current events in robotics, but I'm certain that while we can create a program that causes the unit to make a decision based on certain criteria that are in effect, there is no thinking, feeling or wanting involved in that, only computation based on given data.

What happens if that unit does learn, and starts to want, to think or to feel on it's own, past it's initial programming? Is it then something more than a computer?  Is it alive? That's what these three short fictions below address.

I found all three of them to be thought provoking and would recommend them all if you're interested in this question.  All three lead the reader to be sympathetic to the AI unit that exhibits signs of life.  All three also address the fear of something different, and how that is to be stamped out.  I know this has been a big idea in science fiction for a long time, Isaac Asimov being one of the most well known authors on the subject.

It's a frightening idea really, but also makes you think.  At what point should something be considered alive?

Genesis by Bernard Beckett

From Goodreads:

Anax thinks she knows history. Her grueling all-day Examination has just begun, and if she passes, she’ll be admitted into the Academy—the elite governing institution of her utopian society. But Anax is about to discover that for all her learning, the history she’s been taught isn’t the whole story. And the Academy isn’t what she believes it to be. In this brilliant novel of dazzling ingenuity, Anax’s examination leads us into a future where we are confronted with unresolved questions raised by science and philosophy. Centuries old, these questions have gained new urgency in the face of rapidly developing technology. What is consciousness? What makes us human? If artificial intelligence were developed to a high enough capability, what special status could humanity still claim?

All About Emily by Connie Willis

From Goodreads:

Theater legend Claire Havilland fears she might be entering the Sunset Boulevard phase of her career. That is, until her manager arranges a media appearance with her biggest fan--a famous artificial intelligence pioneer's teenage niece. After precocious Emily's backstage visit, Claire decides she's in a different classic film altogether. While unnaturally charming Emily swears she harbors no desire for the spotlight, Claire wonders if she hasn't met her very own Eve Harrington from All About Eve. But the story becomes more complex as dreams of fame give way to concerns about choice, free will, and identity.

This video was put together by a game design team though it is claimed it is not yet part of any current game, but it speaks eloquently to the question of what makes something alive.

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