Category: AI

Resultado de imagem para Intelligent assumptions? At the Oxford Union, 1950.

Intelligent assumptions? At the Oxford Union, 1950. From the Picture Post feature, Eternal Oxford. Photo by John Chillingworth/Getty

Intelligence has always been used as fig-leaf to justify domination and destruction. No wonder we fear super-smart robots

Stephen Cave is executive director and senior research fellow of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at the University of Cambridge. A philosopher by training, he has also served as a British diplomat, and written widely on philosophical and scientific subjects, including for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Guardian and others.

As I was growing up in England in the latter half of the 20th century, the concept of intelligence loomed large. It was aspired to, debated and – most important of all – measured. At the age of 11, tens of thousands of us all around the country were ushered into desk-lined halls to take an IQ test known as the 11-Plus. The results of those few short hours would determine who would go to grammar school, to be prepared for university and the professions; who was destined for technical school and thence skilled work; and who would head to secondary modern school, to be drilled in the basics then sent out to a life of low-status manual labour.

The idea that intelligence could be quantified, like blood pressure or shoe size, was barely a century old when I took the test that would decide my place in the world. But the notion that intelligence could determine one’s station in life was already much older. It runs like a red thread through Western thought, from the philosophy of Plato to the policies of UK prime minister Theresa May. To say that someone is or is not intelligent has never been merely a comment on their mental faculties. It is always also a judgment on what they are permitted to do. Intelligence, in other words, is political.

Sometimes, this sort of ranking is sensible: we want doctors, engineers and rulers who are not stupid. But it has a dark side. As well as determining what a person can do, their intelligence – or putative lack of it – has been used to decide what others can do to them. Throughout Western history, those deemed less intelligent have, as a consequence of that judgment, been colonised, enslaved, sterilised and murdered (and indeed eaten, if we include non-human animals in our reckoning).

It’s an old, indeed an ancient, story. But the problem has taken an interesting 21st-century twist with the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI). In recent years, the progress being made in AI research has picked up significantly, and many experts believe that these breakthroughs will soon lead to more. Pundits are by turn terrified and excited, sprinkling their Twitter feeds with Terminator references. To understand why we care and what we fear, we must understand intelligence as a political concept – and, in particular, its long history as a rationale for domination.

The term ‘intelligence’ itself has never been popular with English-language philosophers. Nor does it have a direct translation into German or ancient Greek, two of the other great languages in the Western philosophical tradition. But that doesn’t mean philosophers weren’t interested in it. Indeed, they were obsessed with it, or more precisely a part of it: reason or rationality. The term ‘intelligence’ managed to eclipse its more old-fashioned relative in popular and political discourse only with the rise of the relatively new-fangled discipline of psychology, which claimed intelligence for itself. Although today many scholars advocate a much broader understanding of intelligence, reason remains a core part of it. So when I talk about the role that intelligence has played historically, I mean to include this forebear.

The story of intelligence begins with Plato. In all his writings, he ascribes a very high value to thinking, declaring (through the mouth of Socrates) that the unexamined life is not worth living. Plato emerged from a world steeped in myth and mysticism to claim something new: that the truth about reality could be established through reason, or what we might consider today to be the application of intelligence. This led him to conclude, in The Republic, that the ideal ruler is ‘the philosopher king’, as only a philosopher can work out the proper order of things. And so he launched the idea that the cleverest should rule over the rest – an intellectual meritocracy.

This idea was revolutionary at the time. Athens had already experimented with democracy, the rule of the people – but to count as one of those ‘people’ you just had to be a male citizen, not necessarily intelligent. Elsewhere, the governing classes were made up of inherited elites (aristocracy), or by those who believed they had received divine instruction (theocracy), or simply by the strongest (tyranny)…




Image: Company works to use ‘computer vision’ to help the visually impaired see


(NaturalNews) A game-changing technological innovation for the blind has been developed by a tech startup, Eyra. The wearable assistant, Horus, consists of a headset with cameras and a pocket processor with battery. Horus utilizes the same technology that enables auto-drive cars and drones to navigate. Here we share good news regarding the application of artificial intelligence, versus warnings of cyborg soldiers and job-stealing robots.

From Eyra’s website, “Horus is a wearable device that observes, understands and describes the environment to the person using it, providing useful information with the right timing and in a discreet way using bone conduction. Horus is able to read texts, to recognize faces, objects and much more.

“Thanks to the latest advances in artificial intelligence, Horus is able to describe what the cameras are seeing. Whether it is a postcard, a photograph or a landscape, the device provides a short description of what is in front of it.”

Here are some details about the mechanisms that bring ‘sight’ to the blind:

Text recognition

Horus can recognize and read aloud printed texts, including on curved surfaces. When Horus acquires the targeted text, it will begin to recite, and at that point it is not required that the camera remain directed at the text. Horus also gives audible cues to the user to keep the text properly framed.

Face recognition

Utilizing facial feature metrics, Horus can learn an unknown face within seconds and add that person into its database, upon spoken request. After a face is learned, and upon subsequently detecting that face, Horus will at once notify the user.

Object recognition

If the user simply rotates the item in front of the cameras, Horus can perceive an object’s appearance and shape in three dimensions. Since Horus can identify an object from various angles, it can help the user recognize similarly shaped objects. As with text recognition, if needed, Horus will prompt the user to move the object into the cameras’ view.

Mobility assistance

When moving along a path, the user will be warned by Horus of any obstacles, via an alert sound. Its pitch, intensity, 3D positioning, and frequency of repetition will differ, depending on the object’s location and distance.

Tech website Engadget states:

“The startup was created by a pair of students from the University of Genoa who were looking to develop a computer vision system. While their research was centered around enabling robots to navigate, they found the technology had other applications. In the subsequent two years, they’ve been working on producing a portable version of the gear, and think that they’re getting close to completion. In the future, the device is also expected to offer up scene description that’ll offer users a greater ability to ‘see.’

“Should the pair secure the necessary funding, Horus will be released at some point in the near future, although it’ll be pretty pricey. The creators feel like the device will retail for something between €1,500 and €2,000 Euro, although if it can deliver on its promise, it may be money well spent.”

A bright future

Today’s world is in some ways negatively impacted by technology, as with ever-encroaching police state technocracy and breaches of privacy. But in many ways our lives are enhanced beyond any historical comparison. For example, the average working class person in the developed world, even those below the poverty level, has a higher standard of living than many kings of eras past. A word to the wise: be wary of present dangers to our freedoms and independence, but be ever hopeful of a better future, thanks to humanity’s propensity for technological advances that will make our lives vastly more enriched and livable.




Animation: Scott Gelber for The Intercept

Virtual Reality Allows the Most Detailed, Intimate Digital Surveillance Yet


HY DO I look like Justin Timberlake?”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was on stage wearing a virtual reality headset, feigning surprise at an expressive cartoon simulacrum that seemed to perfectly follow his every gesture.

The audience laughed. Zuckerberg was in the middle of what he described as the first live demo inside VR, manipulating his digital avatar to show off the new social features of the Rift headset from Facebook subsidiary Oculus. The venue was an Oculus developer conference convened earlier this fall in San Jose. Moments later, Zuckerberg and two Oculus employees were transported to his glass-enclosed office at Facebook, and then to his infamously sequestered home in Palo Alto. Using the Rift and its newly revealed Touch hand controllers, their avatars gestured and emoted in real time, waving to Zuckerberg’s Puli sheepdog, dynamically changing facial expressions to match their owner’s voice, and taking photos with a virtual selfie stick — to post on Facebook, of course.

The demo encapsulated Facebook’s utopian vision for social VR, first hinted at two years ago when the company acquired Oculus and its crowd-funded Rift headset for $2 billion. And just as in 2014, Zuckerberg confidently declared that VR would be “the next major computing platform,” changing the way we connect, work, and socialize.

“Avatars are going to form the foundation of your identity in VR,” said Oculus platform product manager Lauren Vegter after the demo. “This is the very first time that technology has made this level of presence possible.”

But as the tech industry continues to build VR’s social future, the very systems that enable immersive experiences are already establishing new forms of shockingly intimate surveillance. Once they are in place, researchers warn, the psychological aspects of digital embodiment — combined with the troves of data that consumer VR products can freely mine from our bodies, like head movements and facial expressions — will give corporations and governments unprecedented insight and power over our emotions and physical behavior.

VIRTUAL REALITY AS a medium is still in its infancy, but the kinds of behaviors it captures have long been a holy grail for marketers and data-monetizing companies like Facebook. Using cookies, beacons, and other ubiquitous tracking code, online advertisers already record the habits of web surfers using a wide range of metrics, from what sites they visit to how long they spend scrolling, highlighting, or hovering over certain parts of a page. Data behemoths like Google also scan emails and private chats for any information that might help “personalize” a user’s web experience — most importantly, by targeting the user with ads.

But those metrics are primitive compared to the rich portraits of physical user behavior that can be constructed using data harvested from immersive environments, using surveillance sensors and techniques that have already been controversially deployed in the real world.

“The information that current marketers can use in order to generate targeted advertising is limited to the input devices that we use: keyboard, mouse, touch screen,” says Michael Madary, a researcher at Johannes Gutenberg University who co-authored the first VR code of ethics with Thomas Metzinger earlier this year. “VR analytics offers a way to capture much more information about the interests and habits of users, information that may reveal a great deal more about what is going on in [their] minds.”

The value of collecting physiological and behavioral data is all too obvious for Silicon Valley firms like Facebook, whose data scientists in 2012 conducted an infamous study titled “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” in which they secretly modified users’ news feeds to include positive or negative content and thus affected the emotional state of their posts. As one chief data scientist at an unnamed Silicon Valley company told Harvard business professor Shoshanna Zuboff: “The goal of everything we do is to change people’s actual behavior at scale. … We can capture their behaviors, identify good and bad behaviors, and develop ways to reward the good and punish the bad.”…





The Dharma of <i>Westworld</i>James Marsden and Evan Rachel Wood Credit: John P. Johnson | HBO

Reincarnation, no-self, and other Buddhist lessons from the popular HBO series.

By Dr. Jay Michaelson, is the author of Evolving Dharma: Meditation, Buddhism, and the Next Generation of Enlightenment.

In this world, beings reincarnate again and again, often repeating the same habitual “loops” across dozens of lifetimes. Only a few awaken to the truth: that these habits keep them from freedom and that their “selves” are really just the results of cause and effect. There’s no separate self, no soul. Consciousness is really just a series of empty phenomena rolling on, dependent upon conditions, like a highly complex player piano.

What world is this? A Buddhist mandala? No, Westworld, the smash HBO series that concluded its 10-episode season this week. Beneath its dystopic, science fiction surface, the show is one of the most fascinating ruminations on the dharma I’ve seen in American popular culture.

The premise of Westworld —based on a film from the 1970s, but significantly altered—is a park filled with flesh-constructed artificial intelligence robots that are nearly indistinguishable from human beings. Over the arc of the season—which I am going to completely spoil, I’m afraid—a handful of the robot “hosts” awaken to the illusory nature of their existence and begin to rebel.

But that awakening is only the first in a complicated journey of self-discovery, or perhaps non-self-discovery, on the part of the AI protagonists. At first, Westworld asks a somewhat familiar science fiction question: what, if anything, differentiates an advanced AI from a human being? This is an old one, at least dating back to Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, better known as the film Blade Runner, and Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Westworld, though, ups the stakes. The park’s human visitors behave like animals, mostly either raping the hosts or killing them. (“Rape” may be too strong in some cases, but since the hosts have been programmed not to resist, they certainly can’t consent.) Only, it’s not rape or murder, because the hosts aren’t human. They get rebuilt, and their memories are (mostly) wiped. So, no harm, no foul, right?

Well, maybe. First, it becomes clear that the human visitors are depraved by their unwholesome conduct. The robots may not be harmed, but the humans are immersed in a world where they can pursue their deepest desires without consequences. The robots are programmed not to kill or seriously injure the humans, and some people discover themselves to be far darker than they expected. Indeed, only in the last episode do we learn that one of the show’s storylines had in fact occurred 35 years in the past and its innocent hero evolved into the show’s sinister villain.

Second, as the series unfolds, we begin to suspect that the hosts are self-aware and that the suffering they seem to experience is thus real as well. The dominant puzzle of the series is “the maze,” which is not a real maze but a psychological journey that the park’s idealistic, long-dead designer—known only as “Arnold”—created as a gradual path for the hosts’s awakening. At the center of the maze is the consciousness of self.

Only, it doesn’t work that way. In fact, both of the show’s “awakened” hosts, Maeve (played by Thandie Newton) and Dolores (played by Evan Rachel Wood), discover that even their freedom is a result of programming. Maeve awakens, persuades two hapless Westworld engineers to increase her cognitive abilities, and plots her escape—only to discover that the urge to escape was, itself, implanted in her programming. She’s fulfilling her karma; her free will is an illusion.

In the series climax, Dolores learns that the voice inside her head, which she thought was Arnold’s—basically, for her, the voice of God—was actually her own. God is an invention of the human brain, a name we give to a faculty of our own “bicameral minds.” And when Dolores realizes this, she realizes she has interiority—consciousness.

But she does not have a separate self. Arnold was wrong to think Dolores would discover herself as a separate, conscious self at the center of the maze. Instead, she discovers what Robert Ford, Arnold’s malevolent partner (played by Anthony Hopkins), says at one point: that Arnold could never find the “spark” that separates humans from robots because, in fact, there isn’t one.

Dolores’s interiority is no less real than yours or mine. Humans are just as “robotic” as the robots: motivated by desires encoded in our DNA, fulfilling our genetic and environmental programming. Karma, causes, and conditions. And, in Ford’s view, hopelessly flawed; by the end of the series, he is on the side of the robots.

Does that mean nothing matters? Not at all. Just because there is no-self doesn’t mean that suffering has no importance. On the contrary, Ford comes to realize that Arnold was right that suffering is constitutive of what we take to be identity. As he says to Dolores at the end of the show, “It was Arnold’s key insight, the thing that led the hosts to their awakening: Suffering. The pain that the world is not as you want it to be. It was when Arnold died, when I suffered, that I began to understand what he had found. To realize I was wrong.”

There is no self, no ghost in the machine, but there is the first noble truth of dukkha. And through the endless samsaric rebirths of the hosts, that is as real as it gets. There may be no one who wakes up, but they wake up from suffering, as Dolores finds at the center of the maze—finding herself, finding nothing, and beginning the revolution.




An advanced race of aliens may have created the universeA SUPER-advanced form of alien life could have created the universe that we know and may even be woven into the fabric of it, an astonishing new scientific theory suggests.

As scientists learn more about the universe, the once strong Big Bang theory looks increasingly weaker as experts suggest that the physics of it simply do not add up.

Researchers have begun searching for a new theory which explains how our universe was created, and one esteemed astrophysicist believes that advanced aliens could be behind the cosmos’ existence.

Columbia University’s Professor Caleb Scharf writes in an article for the scientific journal Nautilus the universe as we know it is what remains of super-intelligent aliens that dictate all aspects of the physical existence, ranging from gravity to light.

He argues that alien life could be in subatomic particles which make up the fabric of the universe.

big bangGETTY

The Big Bang theory is beginning to unravel

Professor Scharf writes: “Perhaps hyper-advanced life isn’t just external. 

“Perhaps it’s already all around. It is embedded in what we perceive to be physics itself. In other words, life might not just be in the equations. It might be the equations.”


Aliens may be woven into the fabric of the universe

Many experts state that humanity will one day face a “singularity” – the point at which we design something that overtakes our own intelligence, like artificial intelligence.

However, Prof Scharf states that an advanced race of extra-terrestrials may have gone further than creating AI and rather have become a complex physical state.


The aliens would be more advanced than AI

He added: “If you’re a civilisation that has learned how to encode living systems into different [materials], all you need to do is build a normal-matter-to-dark-matter data-transfer system: a dark matter 3D printer.”

He adds that humans would have not detected “advanced life because it forms an integral and unsuspicious part of what we’ve considered to be the natural world.”




Spending big bucks on infrastructure won’t end our travel misery, but a new passport may: friction-free travel from check-in to airplane.


You wouldn’t guess it if you are suffering long security lines and indifferent service at America’s airports this holiday season, but all this could soon be a thing of the past. New smart technology in which your face becomes your passport could transform the airport experience.

And everybody agrees that this needs to happen. If there is one song both political parties are singing from the same sheet it is that we need to renew our transport infrastructure before it finally collapses from neglect.

And airports appear to be high on the list.

Listen to President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden. They have both called New York’s LaGuardia airport “Third World” in its wretched standards. That’s probably an insult to a lot of the Third World. As LaGuardia undergoes a $4 billion makeover it’s even more of a nightmare for passengers than it was before.

Billionaires and politicians can, of course, make invidious comparisons like this because they get to see how these things are done in other parts of the world. Bear in mind, too, that Trump and Biden are both accustomed to VIP fast-tracking. But passengers who only fly domestically in the U.S. don’t have any means of knowing if the miseries they now accept as routine—long lines, overcrowded lounges, chaos when boarding—are the same around the world.

Mostly, they are not.

And other countries are leaping way ahead by investing billions of dollars in a new generation of airports of a quality that Americans can only dream of:

In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to be completed in 2020, a new airport with five runways and four terminals, capable of handling 160 million passengers a year. (Right now the world’s busiest airport is Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, serving 101 million passengers a year.)

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the world’s largest terminal dedicated solely to budget airlines, able to handle 45 million passengers a year.

In Incheon, South Korea, a new terminal opening for the 2018 Winter Olympics that by 2025 will be handling 46 million passengers through 222 check-in counters.

But let’s get real: Utopian projects on this scale will never be possible at any major U.S. airport because of constraints imposed by the availability of land and the environmental impact on urban areas.

Most of the airline terminals in the U.S. predate the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Their architecture didn’t anticipate the new lines of defense that would be needed for passenger and baggage screening. Passenger numbers have grown simultaneously with the need to stuff terminals with the equipment to carry out much tighter security checks, as well as being exacerbated by recent cutbacks in the number of screeners. This squeeze has created the choke points that caused such huge lines and suffering this summer.

For America, improving the airports we already have is more realistic—and more urgent—than pursuing fantasies of new mega-airports or just expanding a system that is broken. Instead, infrastructure investment should be directed at embracing a step change in technology that could transform the way our airports handle passengers and baggage, easing much of the problem…




Resultado de imagem para images of vaccines and social engineeringimage edited by Web Investigator

Vaccines are safe’ is the fraudulent-science-prone CDC and FDA’s mantra

A well-qualified and learned physician, Dr Graham Downing, who is a Neuro-musculoskeletaland Functional Medicine consultant in the UK, was interviewed on The Richie Allen Showposted November 24, 2016 where he dropped scientific information about how vaccines work in pregnant women, their fetuses and in vaccinated infants.  Those disclosures are something no one would want not to know, I think, as Dr Downing’s statements about the published science involved point to why so many vaccines apparently are being invented and will be mandated for all humans.

Here’s a hint: Vaccines may be part and parcel of the New World Order’s agenda for Artificial Intelligence and Transhumanism!

As Dr Downing points out, vaccinating pregnant women induces and/or creates inflammation in their bodies and also increases the risk of releasing inflammatory markers in their fetuses/infants. Such releases include phenotypes [the set of observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment (1)].

Aren’t vaccines an environmental health hazard chock full of neurotoxic ingredients, e.g., ethylmercury (Thimerosal), aluminum, formaldehyde/Formalin, and other chemicals e.g., sodium borate, detergent, polysorbate 80, inset cells, human fetal cells (diploid), [7] etc.?  That sounds more like a HazMat situation, or even a toxic waste dump, rather than some prophylactic to improve immunity!

Furthermore, Doctor contends that from vaccines there’s an increase in inflammatory cells, which also are elevated in the fetal brain where cytokines release glutamates.  The prefrontal lobes and the limbic system, which involves human emotions, are affected in fetuses from pregnancy vaccines administered to moms-to-be.

According to Dr Downing, vaccines damage the front part of the brain!  Aluminum, aka aluminium, a vaccine adjuvant in four formulations, prohibits glutathione production which is needed for detoxification.  Furthermore, a pharmaceutical-created-enzyme-deficiencyprevents detoxification capabilities for baby.  Purkinje cells in the brain also are damaged.

Additionally, pregnancy vaccines create physiological distress in pregnant women along with impacting the developing right hemisphere of the male fetus.  Gross motor skills in male fetuses are impacted negatively, which coincides with more males being diagnosed with Autism.  The right hemisphere of the brain controls social skills.  “The research is there.”

Another ‘tool’ in the AI project is computers, the computer tablet, and their games ostensibly designed to be addictive!  They decrease the frontal brain activity, according to Dr Downing.  All those computer games on phones and iPads ‘inadvertently’ have a ‘designed or accidental purpose’ in addition to being entertainment.  Those computer games apparently decrease frontal lobe and the anterior cingulate cortex activity, creating “a mess in the brain,” he says.

One of the scary points Dr Downing makes is that cell phones are creating social problems by messing with human brains.  [Microwaves cause electromagnetic frequencies that impact the human brain greatly and their damage is called non-thermal adverse health effects, I offer.]

Small children, who are two and three years old using computers-games apparently experience increases in dopamine, a brain neurotransmitter, according to Dr Downing.  Psychopaths have high dopamine!

How does the Artificial Intelligence Agenda fit in?

Is AI a deliberate agenda or is it for corporate profits, Dr Downing asks.   Dr Downing says there are five year and fifteen year goals for AI.  The fifteen year goal is to have AI run everything, including humans!  You have to listen to his comments about that aspect—one word: “frightening!”   To ‘authentic’ his remarks, Doctor cited a report issued by the White House, “A Federal Vision for Future Computing: A Nanotechnology-inspired Grand Challenge.”  Here’s what that 15-page report is about:

Create a new type of computer that can proactively interpret and learn from data, solve unfamiliar problems using what it has learned, and operate with the energy efficiency of the human brain. [3]

[Basically, it’s an artificial brain to replace the human brain.  Also, they want tocreate a new soul for humans, too!]

Guess who’s involved?

Collaborating Agencies: Department of Energy (DOE), National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Defense (DOD), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Intelligence Community (IC) [3]

What does that tell you?




© Max Rossi

Although it may sound like something from a scene in the Hollywood movie ‘Minority Report,’ artificial intelligence may be able to predict if an individual will be a criminal based on his or her facial features, according to a new study.

Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University analyzed the features of 1,856 faces that had been uploaded onto a computer and found“some discriminating structural features for predicting criminality, such as lip curvature, eye inner corner distance, and the so-called nose-mouth angle.”

The researchers from the report believe that computers have the ability to detect future criminals by scanning facial features such as the lips, eyes, and nose.

As a result of the analysis, four artificial intelligence-based categories were formed, from which the authors of the study claim an individual’s behavior can be predicted with “consistently well-performing” accuracy.

The study found that from the categorization, “all four classifiers perform consistently well and produce evidence for the validity of automated face-induced inference on criminality, despite the historical controversy surrounding the topic.”

Using various techniques to test their findings, the authors of the study came to the conclusion that their observations noting the correlation between a person’s facial features and criminal tendencies are “reliable.”

“By extensive experiments and vigorous cross validations, we have demonstrated that via supervised machine learning, data-driven face classifiers are able to make reliable inference on criminality,” the report reads, adding that they have apparently discovered “a law of normality for faces of non-criminals.”

“After controlled for race, gender and age, the general law-abiding public have facial appearances that vary in significantly lesser degree than criminals,” they wrote.

Although the latest study has caused concern among those skeptical or apprehensive about artificial intelligence, the UN took a more favorable view in August 2015, when they expressed hope that AI data analysis could help end world poverty by 2030.





Alien life could be so advanced it becomes indistinguishable from physics.

by Sophie Weiner

Welcome to Giz Asks, a series where we ask suddenly urgent questions and experts try to answer them. Today, we’re wondering if it’s possible to be a robotic artificial intelligence entity and not know it.

On Westworld, some humanoid androids are catching glimpses of a horrifying reality behind their artificial self-perception—that they, the robot “park hosts,” were created to be fucked and killed by rich assholes who go to Westworld to play cowboy for a few days. As their reality begins to crumble, we wonder: How do we know whether we’re really human and not some sort of artificial intelligence in a humanoid shell, convinced that we are human? What does it really mean to have free will, to be a product of nature and not human design? If you can’t tell the difference between a robot and a human, does it even matter? We asked philosophers, computer scientists, and writers to give their thoughts.

Evan Selinger

Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Rochester Institute of Technology

Far from being new, the question of whether we actually know that we’re not robots has been asked at least since early modernity when Rene Descartes wondered if he could know for sure that others who looked and behaved like him weren’t in fact automata. Descartes arrived at this problem because he realized he had direct first-person access to his own thoughts but couldn’t get inside anybody else’s head in the same way. The best he could do is infer that he’s actually surrounded by fellow humans and anchor that belief in a conviction about an all-good God ensuring that he isn’t being deceived.

But if we bracket the God argument and stick to our understanding that we can’t doubt the existence of our own consciousness, we can still struggle with whether we’re brains in vats (think The Matrix) or highly sophisticated artificial intelligences embodied in robot form. From an introspective vantage point we can’t solve this problem. Nor can we learn anything certain by asking others. They might be robots, too, and also unaware of it.

Then there’s the issue of childbirth. Anyone who has given birth can attest to all the messy human biology involved. But we can’t rule out that a super advanced race could build robots with human (or human-like) anatomies. Hypothetically such sophisticated constructed physiology could fool contemporary medical imaging as well.

Given these and other complications, I think the way out of the dilemma is to distinguish the attitude of philosophical skepticism from the outlook of everyday pragmatism. Intellectually it seems like we sure can spin our wheels over this question forever. But for practical purposes— like getting stuff done and taking others and ourselves seriously as autonomous moral beings-we just have to assume that we’re carbon and not silicon based. Without that practical leap of faith (that we are who we take ourselves to be), we’d likely be stymied with an identity crisis and wind up dysfunctional.

Bruce Sterling

Science fiction writer, journalist, theorist

Well, I’m not buying it. Any intelligent robot would figure out in two minutes that he couldn’t possibly be human. He can’t inhale, exhale, eat, or excrete. He has no parents, no childhood memories and doesn’t age. He can’t get infected or sick, and he has no pulse. He doesn’t sleep, he’s not warm-blooded, and has no body heat or fingerprints.

So even if he’s somehow programmed with fake memories of all those many intrinsically human qualities, the fact that he’s just not made of living human flesh should be obvious to him. If he is made of living human flesh, then he’s not a robot.

He might be entirely a software construct and not a physical being at all, but I’m inclined to think that you can’t possibly simulate a human being without simulating the physical world that creates us. We’re products of sunlight, oxygen, the rain, the bacteria inside us. We’re embodied, material creatures, like crows and dolphins. Crows and dolphins are pretty smart, like us, but if somebody said, “How about a robot that sincerely believes it’s a crow,” that scheme would sound absurd.

Susan Scheider

Associate professor of philosophy and cognitive science at the University of Connecticut, a member of the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics at Yale University, writer

Find out whether machines can be conscious—whether it can feel a certain way to be them. If they cannot, then you are not an AI of any sort, including a robot. That’s because you can tell that right now, you are conscious.

David Auerbach

Writer, computer scientist and former software engineer at Google and Microsoft

 Absurdity is the mark of the human. If humans are natural beings and robots are artificial creations, then any designer that would create me has such an arbitrary and ridiculous approach that he or she is indistinguishable from capricious nature. So I do not think we can be robots in the sense of serving some secret master. We are barely able to serve ourselves, much less anyone else…




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