Archive for February, 2012


Searle’s Chinese Room Argument

February 25, 2012

See... philosophers smile too.


“The heart of the argument is an imagined human simulation of a computer, similar to Turing’s Paper Machine. The human in the Chinese Room follows English instructions for manipulating Chinese symbols, where a computer “follows” a program written in a computing language. The human produces the appearance of understanding Chinese by following the symbol manipulating instructions, but does not thereby come to understand Chinese. Since a computer just does what the human does—manipulate symbols on the basis of their syntax alone—no computer, merely by following a program, comes to genuinely understand Chinese.” (from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Searle does not argue that a machine could not think. According to Searle, “Strong AI” is the idea that machines, given the right formal program, could BE minds that have understanding and other cognitive states. Upon producing such intelligence we could explain these processes of the human mind. Intentionality cannot be reproduced with any formal program and therefore strong AI is false as defined throughout the argument as a program that can produce intelligence. Intentionality [aboutness] and understanding are linked. To understand anything the symbols must stand for something. If a machine does not realize what a symbol is means, it can understand neither the input, the action it is performing on the input, not the output. Biological and mechanical machines can think but only minds can understand. Though not specific, Searle does point to physical-chemical processes for an explanation of the mind. Only machines, built like human brains to function like them, can have the same understanding as the human mind.

There are six replies Searle gives to his argument. In this short section I am going to explain with of them I find most powerful and why. One of Searle’s complaints was that no formal program could replicate the intentionality necessary for understanding. I agree that an immovable, perceptionless machine will never be able to fully understand the world without those perceptive senses. The perceptive senses are what is necessary for the construction of semantic meaning. How could one connect the word “hamburger” with and actual hamburger without such connection being presented. A combination of the robot reply and the systems approach is the most powerful at answering this problem.The robot reply includes some of the complexities associated with human intelligence. This argument would have the most potential for something like human understanding as long as the program (as the brain of the system) could be produced to enable the machine to understand its worldly interactions. The robot approach would allow the machine to make contact with objects outside itself and the systems approach to associate the symbols presented to it with the “real world” object.


Turing Test

February 25, 2012

“Computing and Machine Intelligence” by Alan Turing (1950) as published in Haugeland’s “Mind Design II”.


Bio Pretty Impressive and Sad…

This may be a long, boring one. If you don’t want to read the post below, at least read the Biography above. He’s concise red the father of modern computing, cracking the Nazi Enigma Code for the British in WWII effectively winning the war, or at least the security of the country. He was arrested in ’52 for homosexuality, taking his own life two years after. Maybe I’ll try to study up on him a little later on and write something of my own about the guy.

-Alan Turing describes the Turing Test as testing for intelligence and for thought. Turing’s idea of machine intelligence is simply the perfect mimicry and imitation of humans. The machine must give the answers a judge would deem appropriate of a human and in a similar amount of time. If the machine can behave like a human it must have some intelligence.

My definition of intelligence is the propensity to learn new facts, opinions, views, etc. while thought is the function of how we use that knowledge to synthesize new ideas and give more meaning to those we already have. Thought involves the combination of ideas into new ideas and ways of understanding. So, intelligence is a necessary condition of thought. Thought is what is built from our intelligence.

If the imitation game is merely to imitate human conversation, then it is not a practical means of assessing machine intelligence under my definition of intelligence. Turing’s definition is exceedingly narrow. Under his definition it would seem to be a viable means of proving machine intelligence. If my definition was held, though it may measure some degree of conversational intelligence, it would not be an adequate test of a machines true overall intelligence.

An intelligent machine might believe that were it to pass the Turing Test, people would take it apart to see how it worked. So it might intentionally fail. If a machine were to believe that, the machine would be fearing for the cessation of its own being. The possession of the knowledge of its own existence should be considered as having a personality and therefore the machine would be thinking. This reaction by the machine, though undoubtedly programmed, would be totally separate from all other human interaction and influence. Such thoughts, if able to be known by us, would be undeniable evidence of an intelligent machine.

Five of the ten judges in the First Turing Test thought that a version of Weizenbaum’s program was human. So naive humans might be said to be too gullible for Turing Test purposes. Suppose the government decided to make Weizenbaum’s ELIZA program vastly larger by adding more and more canned responses and developing hardware to get the machine to deliver the canned responses quickly. The resulting SUPERELIZA program, still a bag of tricks– that is, responses whose every detail was thought of by the programmers–might be thought to be intelligent even by judges who are wise to the ELIZA tricks.

The machine would still not be intelligent. While it could respond to any question posed to it, it would not be able to “think” as I defined it above. Processing a question and searching for an appropriate answer would be a repetitive machine that would have no use but answering question. Not that that’s completely useless, Siri for the iPhone has many uses, including answering questions, giving directions, etc.

An intelligent cave-person might be very good at telling men from women in the imitation game, but nonetheless hopeless at telling people from machines because of lack of familiarity with technology. With such a judge, unintelligent machines- -even iPhones–may consistently pass the Turing Test. Further, it will do no good to specify that the judge be selected randomly, for in a cave-society (where everyone is unfamiliar with technology) unintelligent machines may consistently pass, and thus will be intelligent, relative to that society, according to the Turing Test conception of intelligence. Of course, an unintelligent machine such as an iPhone will be incapable of the genuine thinking that the cave people manage easily, e.g., figuring out where to find food, understanding why the fire went out, and the like. So the machine won’t be genuinely intelligent, even by the standards of that society.

-The Turing Test seems to act as a sort of poll of the population to determine intelligence, which there should be a consensually agreed upon scientific definition for. If intelligence depends on the society, or the time for that matter, then we have failed at providing a true definition and test of intelligence. Something must be said about encyclopedic knowledge, however. Humans do not individually possess encyclopedic knowledge and I’m not sure if computers should be expected to possess that sort of knowledge that would be considered uniquely human. The computer should only know what is relevant at the time. If I were transported to the caveman days, I would surely be considered stupid due to my lack of practical caveman hunting and gathering knowledge and be dead in a week’s time. Conversely were I too cold or quick with my answers, I may run a risk of being determined a machine.

The last two objections depend on the possibility that the judge may lack the abilities necessary to discriminate intelligent machines from unintelligent ones. Is there some way of specifying the nature of the judge so as to avoid such problems?

The depth of human intelligence cannot be truly simulated by the Turing test or any other behavioral test. Conversational intelligence, the ability to effectively communicate with a human, seems to be the only skill exercised and proven by the Turing test. If another behavioral test was to be proposed that limited itself to a single human characteristic, instead of the full breadth of human complexity, it would be too narrow to judge machine intelligence comparative to a human. A true test if behavioral would seem to need (you may want to sit down) a replicant of some sort. Yes, like Roy or Rachael in Blade Runner. For a machine to be able to fool humans across the board it must be able to empathize with a human being and perform the functions of a human in an entirely convincing manner it would have to share the experiences of a human. Just as we can’t know what it is to be a bat, a machine cannot know what it is to be a human, no matter how complex and thorough the programming. When the time comes, the judge must be the general public. If the machine can assimilate itself in with the population it would almost certainly be said to replicate a human. The other option would be the 2001: Space Odyssey one. I will have to think about the Hal option and get back to you guys…


The Big Questions! (for a philosophy nerd)

February 25, 2012

Gimme a hug! Or I WILL rip your arms off...

I thought it would be good to define a few terms for my AI class just so I knew a little better where I stand on these issues. How can I have an opinion about a machine or a mind if I can’t come close to defining what I’m thinking of.

The definitions below are my own. These are absolutely up for other interpretations. And as always I would love to hear if anyone disagrees… I don’t know what these are any more than anyone else.

What is a Machine?

A machine is an artifact that performs a task as instructed by an operator (brain, central processor, program etc.).

What is a Mind?

A mind is the combination of all mental traits of a being as they are thought and felt by that being. Intelligence, reason, memory, thoughts, emotions, some degree of self-awareness.

What is a Person?

A person is a mentally autonomous being, that is, has a mind. It has self-awareness, and cares for its own we’ll being. It is an end in itself according to Kant.

What is a Computer?

A computer is a machine that is able to perform complex computations via a program installed into and run by its hardware. It has memory storage, an active processor, and a program or instructions on what function to perform and under what circumstances.

What is a Robot?

A robot is a computer given some physical manifestation so that it may interact with the objects and area around it.

What is Intelligence?

Intelligence is a quality that determines one’s ability to learn. Factors include cognition, memory, and understanding (comprehension).

What is Thought?

Intelligence is a quality that determines one’s ability to learn. Factors may include cognition, memory, understanding and the synthesis of comprehended ideas into new ideas and understandings not contained in the original cognitive perception.

What is Emotion?

Emotion is what persons use, as a result of self-awareness, to judge the world around and within them. They play a role in forming our opinions and beliefs about everything that is and everything that could be.

What is a Right? (Who has them? Why?)

Rights are based on ethical concerns regarding how we agree to treat each other. All persons should be extended at least those rights that prevent unnecessary suffering and pain. As persons, we value ourselves as ends in ourselves and in turn should value others as ends. Any being that values itself and its interests must in some small way think of itself as an end.


Mill’s On Liberty

February 24, 2012

One Handsome Feller…

Classic for any Red-Blooded American (even if you’re blue blooded!).

I think anyone who reads this can walk away with something. This is one of those titles I think everyone should read before they die.

He was a Liberalist whatever that means these days. But in essence he was one of the original philosophers to speak for the Liberty of the Individual, influencing the founding fathers (along with plenty of others) in the formation of the good ole US of A.

Here’s a bio too if anyone is interested…


Porn and Obscenity… In 500 words or less… again…

February 24, 2012

R. Dworkin   “Liberalism”

Dworkin’s introduction said he was going to try to define Liberalism. Taking the challenge, I tried to compile a “short” definition of Dworkin’s “Liberalism.” According to Dworkin, “Liberalism” is the political concept holding that government must treat all citizens as equal. This equal treatment requires neutrality on questions of the good life to allow, as much as possible, for free decision and action for each of its citizens with equal concern and respect given to each. In practice, the liberal understands that legislation and social opinions will be biased in favor of the majority and works to establish additional protections and rights for those whose equality may be disrupted by that majority. (all that work and it seems Dan found a summary definition on page 203…)

My interpretation (barring misinterpretation) of Dworkin’s definition would hold that, in the least, each of us is free to choose what we do with respect to morality. If the government is not able to make choices regarding the good life for us, then they should not be able to regulate the porn industry on a whole. It must treat each of us equally in whatever our endeavors so long as they be legal. The regulation of the pornography industry would, I think, reasonably called a tyranny of the majority in assuming the public making the decision is infallible in its knowledge of what is best for others and thereby entitled to make the decisions for those morally lacking individuals.

Many would say that the porn industry is neither a citizen nor an individual with unalienable rights. That is true (unless the rights of corporations law has been passed, which I don’t know). But the porn industry is less the concern here as those working in it. While MacKinnon assumes that all individuals working on the porn industry are coerced by men into working in the industry I am sure there are a large amount who with no education sign up because like many men would love to get paid to have sex. There is also the case of a Mensa members working in the porn industry. Asia Carrera, receiving a full-ride to Rutgers, got into stripping for extra cash during school and soon entered into porn. Certainly she could have done anything she liked but porn was the path she chose.

The difficulty with MacKinnon’s argument against porn is that it is radical. Because her views are so extreme and she assigns so much weight to the degrading nature of pornography she will have a response to any of the more reasonable views I have just given. No matter what one says, take the Asia Carrera example, MacKinnon will contribute that action in some way to the how pornography has lowered value of our culture. There is no reply to MacKinnon’s argument it seems that doesn’t involve the strict regulation of pornography.


Hate Speech in 500 words or less (Class Blog ketchup for you guys)

February 24, 2012

Scanlon’s  “Content Regulation Reconsidered”

Scanlon makes a statement I agree with, namely, “we cannot understand or interpret the idea that content-based regulation is impermissible without ourselves drawing distinctions between different forms of expression on the basis of their content…and making judgments about the relative value of these expressions.”

With this lesson in hand, Scanlon tweaks his own Millian Principle (162) to include this concept. The original Millian Principle concentrated on citizen autonomy to assure freedom of expression, but ignored the differing “degrees to which content-based restrictions of expression” threaten our expressive autonomy. There are undoubtedly harmful and non-harmful results to a complete freedom of speech and judging these as either harmful or not is the act of putting statements on a relative scale. False advertising is much less harmful than announcing over the public airwaves that a nuclear weapon has been detonated in the capital. Both are harmful but the nuclear weapon “joke” would cause much greater harm due to people’s innate fears of nuclear attacks. There’s also every case in between. Though an extreme example, it hopefully clarifies the sheer complications of trying to make judgments regarding any rights and the complexity in defining permissible and impermissible restrictions where opinions are so varied.

Scanlon gives several examples of areas where the gov’t restricts freedom of expression. These include judgment regulation (false advertising), restrictions on viewpoint discriminations (with very interesting questions about the empirical value of editorial responses) and subject-matter restrictions (Mosley v. Police). In each of these the court seems to be trying to keep its eye out for fairness, distortion of facts, citizen autonomy and, of course, general gov’t interests.

If anything sticks with me from this article (and Stone’s) it’s that the regulation of our freedom of expression is a tricky task for the courts. As an advocate of free speech, I don’t believe that restrictions should be handed down in any haphazard fashion and that any restrictions required to be enacted should be so done with the utmost care and wisdom. While the subjective standard of discerning high and low speech for regulation, I agree, seems overly subjective we all discern between harmful and non-harmful speech. The only difference is whether we believe the harmful sort should be restricted. If we believe it should be restricted, we are eventually forced to draw the line somewhere.


Mill’s On Liberty

The Introduction of On Liberty does not argue for any single form of gov’t. What it does is set forth the grounds and restrictions upon which a liberal government should be established, and most importantly warns the citizens of what dangers they need to guard against. The criteria for all of these express the importance Mill assigns to individual liberty above and beyond that of social. In this case, the individual acting as “sovereign over himself” (so long as he does harm to no other) is of the highest importance. Individual liberty must be kept in place for social liberty to thrive for any period of time without becoming a “tyranny of the majority.”

From the beginning he points out that self-government and similar phrases mean only, that the majority or most active group of people rule over minority groups. He advises that just as many precautions should be taken against this influential group in order to prevent a “tyranny of the majority,” whose power is based primarily on societal forces. These are in many senses more difficult to escape as their means of influence are more subtle. The rules of society are generally thought to be “self-evident” and “customary.” The potential harm of these traditional norms is both more difficult to discern and by that very notion more difficult to escape.

Protection against this sort of “tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling” would necessarily be a protection against counters from the social, religious, and collective pressures of society, in general, that threaten social and moral repression to an individual’s Liberty of Thought. This initial repression of Thought is the most harmful, eventually hindering the Liberty of Individual Tastes, and the Liberty to Unite, which are based on Liberty of Thought. Those guilty of this kind of repression cannot be demonized since we all have a tendency to expect others to conform to our way of life in some way. This is human nature. It makes the world around us more predictable.

Even after a gov’t has set up the necessary means to a free society (Liberty of Thought, of Tastes, and to Unite, according to Mill) the Introduction urges us not to forget to stay mindful of and vigilant against those, including ourselves, who would influence the thoughts and opinions of others through moral and social repression. Without the individual liberty of self-sovereignty the three tenants of social liberty cannot survive.


Brink’s “Millian Principles, Freedom of expression, and Hate Speech”

Though I am what I would call a free speech advocate, I agree almost entirely with Brink on the deliberative approach to regulation of Hate Speech. I would say there is a strong interest for the state to have educated well-versed citizens if it is ruled by them. I believe Mill would agree with this also […]. For any society to function as such it would have to preserve the rights of individuals to develop deliberative competence through education so that they can practice their liberty of thought and express it via liberty of action – comprising the full range of an individuals deliberative capacities.

For any one person there are words or actions that can leave us speechless. Certain historically repressed minorities are even more susceptible to certain attacks that bring in painful historical significance. A certain degree of intimidation can be reached that leave them speechless in the wake of a public debate. If injuries continue they may give up entirely on the political discourse and the process in general. This surrender leaves them even more in the minority as they will be under represented concerning important matters that these groups may have much insight into.

Offense is something that must be tolerated if one lives in a free society, but hate speech is of special concern for two reasons. 1.) It inflicts great harm to the individual or group that it targets, as expressed by the Lawrence quote. We’ve all been called names, but I think we can all think of times where some particular phrase caught us off guard and left us standing there with our heads cocked in shocked silence feeling like maybe we should walk away. We must imagine living in a world where these types of phrases, while not commonplace, are more real on a day-to-day basis than we care to notice. 2.) Following from this, hate speech, because of its injurious nature, even retards the Millian concept of deliberative values. These are the fundamental values by which we judge, form and hold our opinions. If a group withdraws from public debate and discussion because they don’t feel comfortable due to minority-biased attacks they lose their ability to make intelligent decisions.

Though this is dangerous territory Brink has shown that it is worth a try to continue to try forming laws to regulate harmful hate speech. If the First Amendment is supposed to promote the free exchange of ideas we must do what we can to ensure that all parties that are willing to respectably participate are comfortable in getting involved. The restriction of hate speech as a separate more harmful class from discriminatory speech should be enforced in a scaled manner even if it is more time consuming and labor intensive. The mutual respect of all parties must be somehow maintained and deliberative values must be upheld before fundamental liberties can be expressed.


Sumner’s  “Incitement and the regulation of Hate Speech in Canada”

Sumner analyzes the interpretation of a Canadian hate speech law, determined in R. v. Keegstra, under the Millian microscope an attempt to determine if the law holds up to the idea of classical liberal free speech. Describing the courts decision he notes that the interpretation of the law comes down to the explication of a single phrase: “wilful promotion of hatred” (Sumner, 213).

Though the parliament seems to have carefully chosen the word “promote” over incite to separate the promotion of hate speech from the incitement of hate crimes, Chief Justice Dickson interpreted “promote” to mean “incite” giving the court freer reign over restrictions of speech. The word “incite” seems to have the connotation of action while hatred is nothing but an emotion, though a potentially harmful one.

The promote/incite distinction should have remained. There is nothing wrong with separating the intent of a hate crime suspect from that of a hate group. Though intent cannot be prosecuted, evidence of links to a crime can be. If a hate crime is committed and a direct connection can be shown such as the person in question being (now or previously) a member of a hate group the authorities should have the clear ability to prosecute both the suspect and the hate group. As originally written by parliament, the law forbidding the promotion of hate speech seems to add more of a potential of including hate groups as accomplices to hate crimes – should that connection be found. As interpreted in the Keegstra decision there may be problems prosecuting hate groups for egging the individuals on because the interpretation. Though they may promote hatred, they may not incite the individual to perform violence on account of that hatred.

The law as handed down in Keegstra was too broad and examples should have been handled in a civil or social manner. To take another account, the protesters of the Westboro Baptist Church should also have the right to protest as they please against any chosen group without criminal prosecution. The opposition must of course be given equal rights to counter-protest. Should a member of that group make actions to harm or proceed to harm a member of the other group and a direct connection can be made to the hate group, then the hate group should be held partially liable for the individual’s actions.

Some may ask about social inequity, but this is a subject for another time. Infiltration of hate into the general population causing social inequality through political and social pressures are prevalent in all cultures including our own. These types of social barriers are harder to break down as they can be seen as part of a societies cultural structure. So even these formerly acceptable walls of veiled prejudice must be broken down brick by brick.


MacKinnon’s   “Should we Tolerate Holocaust Denial?”

I agree with McKinnon that we should defend highly offensive and many times inaccurate speech legal based on the weight given to free speech in our society. But she had me wondering how she was going to justify the exclusion of this legal form of expression from academia. I believe I’ve said something like this before, but offense does not give a right to censorship. This time I also had academic censorship in mind.

Though she spent less time on it on this argument in favor of allowing HD in academia, I believe the second argument of relativism (23) was probably the most pressing point. This point stated that all truth is relative so HD should be allowed in to universities to teach their side. We can all agree that history rests on the observer and our history courses are much different than those of other cultures. If we believe this how do we keep historians like David Irving and others from attaining teaching positions at universities? McKinnon’s response to this argument does not do it justice. Her response seems to be unfocused and possibly ad hoc, stating that maybe we should just shut down the history departments and possibly universities themselves. Why keep them open if the instructors do not have any special claim to knowledge? This paragraph was a bit unclear, and the hurried tone may have been because there was not much in response to that. She admits there is relativism in all fields, but her second argument could easily have been used for the first and the second.

Her response to the second argument that complains about administrators who prevent HD participants from gaining positions at universities as self-serving. Here she emphasizes, for at least the second time, that HD proponents are not academics and this has been attested to “sometimes under oath.” A university is a place where people come to gain knowledge in their particular field of interest (this reason contested in the third argument for letting HD proponents into academia). Non-academics should not be allowed to teach those who are paying to come to college for the purposes of knowledge gain and widening their understanding. If we, as students, wanted to learn how not to use our brains we probably could have paid less for that.


The Human Condition

February 1, 2012

Each is trying not to give himself or herself away,
each is preserving fundamental loneliness, each
remains intact and therefore unfructified. In such
experiences the is no fundamental value.
-Bertrand Russell

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