|No: computers are inherently disabled Position1 #207|
Machines can never do X, where X is any variety of abilities that are regarded as distinctly human—e.g. being friendly, having a sense of humour, making mistakes, or thinking about oneself.
Argument anticipated by Alan Turing 1950.
Note: a great deal of the debate represented on these maps takes the form of disability arguments—arguments that machines can't be creative, can't use analogies, can't be conscious, and so forth—and so could also be thought of as supports for this claim.
- CitationsAdd new citationList by: CiterankMap
|Link Computing Machinery and Intelligence|
Author: Alan Turing
Publication info: 1950
Cited by: Price, David 10:45 AM 18 November 2007 GMT
Citerank: (5) 142No: computers can't be creativeComputers can never be creative. They only do what they are programmed to do. They have no originality or creative powers.959C6EF, 160No: the implications too hard to faceThe consequences of machine thought are too dreadful to accept, therefore we should 'stick our heads in the sand' and hope that machines will never be able to think or have souls.959C6EF, 162No: God gave souls to humans not machinesThe theological objection, anticipated by Turing, that only entities with immortal souls can think. God has given souls to humans, but not to machines. Therefore, humans can think and computers can't.959C6EF, 214Computers can be subject of own thoughtsWhen a computer solves equations, the equations can be said to be the object of its thought. Similarly when a computer is used to predict its own behaviour or to modify its own program, we can say that it's the object of its own thoughts.13EF597B, 265No: ESP would confound the testExtrasensory Perception could invalidate the Turing Test in a variety of ways—eg if a competitor with ESP could "listen in" on the judges & gain an unfair advantage, or a judge with ESP could easily discern humans from machines by clairvoyance.959C6EF
|Excerpt / Summary|
5) Arguments from Various Disabilities
These arguments take the form, "I grant you that you can make machines do all the things you have mentioned but you will never be able to make one to do X." Numerous features X are suggested in this connexion I offer a selection:
Be kind, resourceful, beautiful, friendly, have initiative, have a sense of humour, tell right from wrong, make mistakes, fall in love, enjoy strawberries and cream, make some one fall in love with it, learn from experience, use words properly, be the subject of its own thought, have as much diversity of behaviour as a man, do something really new.
No support is usually offered for these statements. I believe they are mostly founded on the principle of scientific induction. A man has seen thousands of machines in his lifetime. From what he sees of them he draws a number of general conclusions. They are ugly, each is designed for a very limited purpose, when required for a minutely different purpose they are useless, the variety of behaviour of any one of them is very small, etc., etc. Naturally he concludes that these are necessary properties of machines in general. Many of these limitations are associated with the very small storage capacity of most machines. (I am assuming that the idea of storage capacity is extended in some way to cover machines other than discrete-state machines. The exact definition does not matter as no mathematical accuracy is claimed in the present discussion,) A few years ago, when very little had been heard of digital computers, it was possible to elicit much incredulity concerning them, if one mentioned their properties without describing their construction. That was presumably due to a similar application of the principle of scientific induction. These applications of the principle are of course largely unconscious. When a burnt child fears the fire and shows that he fears it by avoiding it, f should say that he was applying scientific induction. (I could of course also describe his behaviour in many other ways.) The works and customs of mankind do not seem to be very suitable material to which to apply scientific induction. A very large part of space-time must be investigated, if reliable results are to be obtained. Otherwise we may (as most English 'Children do) decide that everybody speaks English, and that it is silly to learn French.
There are, however, special remarks to be made about many of the disabilities that have been mentioned. The inability to enjoy strawberries and cream may have struck the reader as frivolous. Possibly a machine might be made to enjoy this delicious dish, but any attempt to make one do so would be idiotic. What is important about this disability is that it contributes to some of the other disabilities, e.g., to the difficulty of the same kind of friendliness occurring between man and machine as between white man and white man, or between black man and black man.
The claim that "machines cannot make mistakes" seems a curious one. One is tempted to retort, "Are they any the worse for that?" But let us adopt a more sympathetic attitude, and try to see what is really meant. I think this criticism can be explained in terms of the imitation game. It is claimed that the interrogator could distinguish the machine from the man simply by setting them a number of problems in arithmetic. The machine would be unmasked because of its deadly accuracy. The reply to this is simple. The machine (programmed for playing the game) would not attempt to give the right answers to the arithmetic problems. It would deliberately introduce mistakes in a manner calculated to confuse the interrogator. A mechanical fault would probably show itself through an unsuitable decision as to what sort of a mistake to make in the arithmetic. Even this interpretation of the criticism is not sufficiently sympathetic. But we cannot afford the space to go into it much further. It seems to me that this criticism depends on a confusion between two kinds of mistake, We may call them "errors of functioning" and "errors of conclusion." Errors of functioning are due to some mechanical or electrical fault which causes the machine to behave otherwise than it was designed to do. In philosophical discussions one likes to ignore the possibility of such errors; one is therefore discussing "abstract machines." These abstract machines are mathematical fictions rather than physical objects. By definition they are incapable of errors of functioning. In this sense we can truly say that "machines can never make mistakes." Errors of conclusion can only arise when some meaning is attached to the output signals from the machine. The machine might, for instance, type out mathematical equations, or sentences in English. When a false proposition is typed we say that the machine has committed an error of conclusion. There is clearly no reason at all for saying that a machine cannot make this kind of mistake. It might do nothing but type out repeatedly "O = I." To take a less perverse example, it might have some method for drawing conclusions by scientific induction. We must expect such a method to lead occasionally to erroneous results.
The claim that a machine cannot be the subject of its own thought can of course only be answered if it can be shown that the machine has some thought with some subject matter. Nevertheless, "the subject matter of a machine's operations" does seem to mean something, at least to the people who deal with it. If, for instance, the machine was trying to find a solution of the equation x2 - 40x - 11 = 0 one would be tempted to describe this equation as part of the machine's subject matter at that moment. In this sort of sense a machine undoubtedly can be its own subject matter. It may be used to help in making up its own programmes, or to predict the effect of alterations in its own structure. By observing the results of its own behaviour it can modify its own programmes so as to achieve some purpose more effectively. These are possibilities of the near future, rather than Utopian dreams.
The criticism that a machine cannot have much diversity of behaviour is just a way of saying that it cannot have much storage capacity. Until fairly recently a storage capacity of even a thousand digits was very rare.
The criticisms that we are considering here are often disguised forms of the argument from consciousness, Usually if one maintains that a machine can do one of these things, and describes the kind of method that the machine could use, one will not make much of an impression. It is thought that tile method (whatever it may be, for it must be mechanical) is really rather base. Compare the parentheses in Jefferson's statement quoted on page 22.