When it comes to Artificial Intelligence, let me begin by saying, that it is important
for you to understand that the "Artificial Intelligence" of which most authorities such as
Rosenberg speak is the Artificial Intelligence that most of us think of. That is, it has its
roots in computer programs, some of which are very sophisticated or "expert" in nature.
In any discussion of Artificial Intelligence, we have to understand what it is that we are
attempting to have computers do, something which I find is not made clear by the
various proponents of Artificial Intelligence and tends to mislead the average individual.
Perhaps the best way to approach the subject of Artificial Intelligence is to take a
hard look at the words which comprise the title: "Artificial" and "Intelligence".
"Artificial" can be taken to mean something less that "real" or something that is a
man-made copy of the real thing or that emulates or imitates the real thing. It does
not happen over millions of years by something that we call evolution. On the other
hand, "intelligence" can be taken at face value. That is, it speaks for itself if we
allow it to.
For our purposes, I want you to accept that "intelligence" refers to human
intelligence or to the one thing that sets us apart from all other animals on the face of
the Earth. Among other things, this intelligence allows us, through something called
cognition, to formulate thoughts and think freely; to use common sense; and to use
insight or make quantum leaps from simple ideas to more complex ones, seemingly
without any apparent knowledge basis. In all, so far as human beings are concerned,
intelligence is equatable with something called sentience, or the ability to conceive pure
thought in a manner unlike any of our fellow creatures on this planet. This being the
case, then the question becomes what happens when we describe "intelligence" as
Artificial.Simply put, the answer is that whatever the intelligence is that we are
attempting to create, it is something less than sentience. To put it another way, Artificial
Intelligence means exactly what it suggests: it is not real; it has not evolved over
millions of years; and it is meant to copy, emulate or imitate human intelligence. Even
stated this way, we can see the potential for misunderstanding what Artificial
Intelligence in relation to computers or machines really is, since no distinction is made
between creating a machine that emulates, imitates or copies human thought and a
machine which, through human intervention, achieves, or attains sentience or becomes
Generally, when we talk about Artificial Intelligence today, we mean machines -
computers - with sophisticated programs that permit the machines to perform tasks in
such a way as to appear to be "thinking" when, in fact they are not thinking at all.
Notwithstanding that we can create computer programs that allow machines to "learn"
and "think", based on our own lack of understanding of what the human ability to "learn"
or to "think" really entails, there is a real and fundamental question as to whether the
machine is "learning" or "thinking" at all. Thus, perhaps the most we can say - in fact, the most we should say - is that an artificially intelligent machine copies, emulates
or imitates a human cognitive process by means of a program. This program
may be sophisticated or expert in nature, but it is something less than real
cognitive "human" thought. The problem is, however, that scientists and
programmers who are interested in Artificial Intelligence have a tendency to extend the
concept beyond a mere program or programs to human sentience itself.
Consider, for the moment, that like many individuals, those who work in the area
of Artificial Intelligence, are looking beyond sophisticated or expert programs that
emulate, copy or look very much like human intelligence, to a day when a machine can
be created, by means of program or otherwise, that will think for itself, just like a human
being. The problem with such a scenario is that, if and when such a day should occur,
the nature of the machine will have to be revisited or re-evaluated. To put it another
way, at such time as, through "artificial" means, a machine is created that no longer
emulates, copies or imitates human intelligence, but achieves and displays all of the
qualities of human intelligence, man will have created a sentient machine. Such a
machine will no longer be a "machine" as we know machines to be. Instead, given the
ability to think for itself -i.e. given sentience - the machine can no longer be called a
machine and its intelligence can no longer be called artificial. For the machine, its
intelligence is a real and concrete a thing as is human intelligence to a human being.
Thus, at the moment the machine attains or achieves sentience, it cannot and should no
longer be viewed as a machine. Rather, it should and must be viewed as another
being, akin to a human being. At such a moment, man will have created a new life form
which, although composed of "machine" parts, is not a machine at all, but rather, given
its sentience, a "live" being.
The foregoing has numerous implications which will involve a host of different
disciplines including philosophy, psychology, religion and ethics, none of which we have
time to delve into. However, it is important to understand the difference between
something that is less than real or human intelligence and something which is akin or
equal to it. It is enough to understand that, today, when we speak of artificial
intelligence, we mean an intelligence that is less than real, human intelligence: one
which by means of a computer program emulates, copies, or imitates human
intelligence, but implicitly one which is not equatable with human intelligence itself.
Part 2 of Lecture (Readings: Coursekit Article “Reason”)
The Lecture on Artificial Intelligence begs the question of whether, if and when
the machine achieves sentience so as to become a live being, it can be considered a
new species. This begs the question of exactly what is a species, something that you
may look into on your own. However, class discussion suggested a number of factors
that should be considered if we are going to call this sentient machine a new species:
1. it must want to survive, since survival appears to be fundamental to all
species on earth. 2. it must be able to sustain itself. i.e. feed itself and find an environment
suitable to its continued existence.
3. it must be able to reproduce itself or make others of its kind.
Unfortunately, this requirement is hindered when we consider the idea that
perhaps a species is dying out, leaving only one survivor who is incapable
of reproducing. Is the survivor any less a member of its species in such a
4. it must evolve, bettering itself and increasing its chances of survival.
I do not propose to go into a lengthy discussion of the above five factors or
characteristics except to say that 1, 2 and 4 are basically the same, and 3 can be said
to also fall into them. I leave it to you to determine whether, based on classical
definitions of “species” and the five factors above, we can have a sentient machine that
has achieved “species” recognition.
END OF LECTURE
THE SECOND PART OF THIS COURSE
We are now finished with the development of the new technology. In this second
portion of the course, and among other things, we will deal with the following matters,
but not necessarily in the order in which they appear below:
1. the answer to the fact situation about the aliens and their technology. This
will be discussed in the near future if time allows.
2. the "Internet". What it is and what it is not.
3. the concept of new technology as a "Benefit". That is: whether a particular
application of the new technology constitutes a benefit or an advantage,
both from a practical (realistic) point of view and an ethical point of view.
4. for whom or to whom the "benefit" or "advantage" applies. That is: who
gets the "benefit" or "advantage" and why. To better understand this, we
will attempt to categorize benefits (advantages). We will note that the
categories that we establish or define are just as applicable to what we consider to be the "disadvantages" of new technology.
This section of the course will focus on my lectures, although, at times,
suggested readings are set out.
THE ALIEN FACT SITUATION
This fact situation is used to introduce some of you (usually first and
second year students) to a new or different way of analyzing, thinking and
arguing. That is: to think or reason on an academic level. This fact situation
requires that you approach carefully each question asked, considering, again
carefully, the question and the implications that arise out of it. It then requires
you to develop an argument or state a position by considering course concepts
and developing a series of arguments or in alternatives. The end result is that if
you understand how to approach a fact situation like the Alien Fact Situation, you
should understand what it means to analyze something that you have read and
then provide a somewhat sophisticated commentary to it. Further, it should help
you to answer a similar type fact situation employing course concepts, on your
midterm or final examination. You should also familiarize yourself with the
questions asked and their answers, in the event that you are asked something
about the Alien Fact Situation on your midterm examination.
THE ALIEN FACT SITUATION ITSELF:
You will recall that, at the end of Lecture number 5, I posed a fact situation about
aliens who are prepared to give us a technology which is a thousand years ahead of our
own. That fact situation read as follows:
An enlightened alien race discovers Earth. Its technology is 1,000 years ahead
of our own. It has scientific advances we have only dreamed of, medicines that
may cure all human disease and suffering and could make us immortal by our
own standards. The Aliens offer us this technology.
(a) What do we do? Do we accept or reject the alien technology?
(b) If we accept it, what are the implications to humanity? What is the cost?
(c) If we reject it, are there any implications?
(d) Assume that we are told that the Alien technology is "Alien Specific" but
might be adapted to human use. Would your answers to (a), (b) and (c)
change? Why?" In order to address this fact situation properly, we have to consider it in the
context of the concepts, issues and/or principles that were encountered in the earlier
lectures. To refresh your memory, these concepts, issues and/or principles were:
Technology Apathy/Complacence; The Real Concerns About Software; The Ethical
Concerns that new technology gives rise to; the concept of "Cause and Effect"; and the
Promises made about new technology. We must also understand that there is and
can be no right or wrong answer. We can only argue different positions.
Returning to the fact situation, the first thing we have to do is separate or list the
facts - look at them individually. Then we can look at them collectively or put them
together. Approaching the fact situation in this way will allow us to gain a perspective
that will make the above-mentioned concepts, issues and/or principles self-evident.
Using this approach the facts become:
(a) the alien technology is
1000 years ahead of our own. (it is, therefore, new technology)
but there is nothing here
that suggests that we know (Technology Apathy)
or understand how it works,
or its consequences, so if (and there is nothing to
we accept it, we may be doing suggest that the "Real
so blindly. Concerns" about software have
(b) it has scientific advances we
have only dreamed of: (behold the promises used to sell and
market the new technology to us)
(i) potential cures for
all human diseases (cause and effect)
and suffering and
potential immortality (what about the ethical concerns. How
do they come into play here)
(a) WHAT DO WE DO? DO WE ACCEPT OR REJECT THE ALIEN
Reference to the outline above suggests that the answer here is either "Yes" or
"No". This is the easy part, we have only two options or choices. However, this is
somewhat deceiving, because whatever answer we choose here will have to be justified
in either (b) or (c). So some care and thought must be given to the "Yes" or "No"
answer here. Keep in mind that, if this were an examination question, your mark for
the "yes" or "no" answer would be dependent on your answer to (b) and/or (c). (b) IF WE ACCEPT IT, WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS TO HUMANITY? WHAT
IS THE COST?
This question asks, quite simply, what do we get if we accept the alien
technology. The first part of the answer is quite clear, that is: all of mankind's diseases
are eliminated and mankind becomes immortal - wonderful and lofty results,
extraordinary benefits. However, what are the consequences to Mankind if you
eliminate all disease and make Man immortal.
History has shown, time and time again, that population pressure in a given area
leads to famine. In turn, famine leads to the need for food. This need can become
explosive, particularly if other areas enjoy plenty of food. Keep in mind that, although
Mankind may have adopted a technology 1,000 years ahead of its own, Mankind has
not grown or evolved. Man is the same today as he was yesterday, when he adopted
the alien technology. That is to say, Mankind has not had the benefit of evolving over a
period of 1,000 years as the technology was developed. Moreover, Mankind has not
had time to adapt to this new technology. Mankind/Humanity is the same as it has
always been. Thus, one can surmise that, notwithstanding that Mankind may aspire to
being something more than just an animal - an enlightened species, above the animal, if
you will - he is still simply the animal that he has always been, full of greed, bias, hatred
and, given his ability to reason, capable of conceiving innumerable ways of killing,
maiming and torturing his fellows. One potential result, then, is war, and since we live in
an age where our technology provides us with the ability to eliminate or eradicate
ourselves, the potential for world wide war and devastation becomes a reality.
Putting these concerns aside for the moment, there are ethical questions that
arise if mankind adopts this new technology. Ignoring the "Legal and illegal" ethical
concerns and assuming that the law does not come into play here, some of these
questions are: "Is it right (good or moral) for Mankind to adopt something that is not his
own creation?; Is it right (good or moral) for Mankind to aspire to God through
immortality?; Should everyone (all of Humanity) obtain the benefit of this new
technology or should it be reserved to a select few?; and Who is it who decides who
gets the benefit of this new technology? Some of these questions contain religious
overtones, while others contain overtones that are philosophical in substance.
One thing that History has taught us and that appears to remain a constant is
that religion and philosophy have, in themselves, been the cause of discrimination,
genocide and war. Unfortunately, there is nothing to suggest that Man will be less like
Man, with the adoption of this new alien technology. The foregoing is not meant to be
conclusive as to the effects of adopting this new alien technology. I am sure that you all
can think of more.
Another factor that must be considered in answering this question is a
consideration of the real or factual concerns. In particular, consider quantum physics
itself; the reality that software always has defects; and the effect of overconfidence. Consider, also, the fact that ambitious systems seldom work as they are supposed to.
Then too, how do we know that the alien technology was developed using a standard
set of rules, guidelines and protocols that can be adopted by or have application to
another species like our own. Perhaps we can make certain assumptions about some
of these real or factual concerns, but the fact remains that the rule that ambitious
systems never quite work as they are supposed to is virtually a law, and there is no
reason to assume that the law has changed for the aliens. We already know that
Quantum Physics dictates that, once in a while, something will not work as it is
supposed to. Could this happen to us as far as adopting the alien technology is
concerned? Might this technology not do what it is supposed to do? Could it backfire
and give us more disease than we had before or eliminate or eradicate our species in its
Let us not stop here. Continuing with the real concerns we know that software
contains biases. If this be so, then the alien technology will contain a neat form of bias
that we will have no way of addressing, since the bias itself will be alien in nature. If this
bias favours the alien species only, Mankind could stand to find itself singled out for
extinction or some other adverse consequence or effect, all because the alien
programmers never considered that their technology might be used by another species.
There is also the principle of "overconfidence". Both Mankind and the aliens will
believe that the technology will do what it is supposed to do - both will be overconfident
in the application of this new technology. This overconfidence can provide a false
sense of security and hide the potential reality that the technology might not work as it is
supposed to or have affects that no one, not even the aliens, ever considered.
In summary, all of these real concerns can have a major impact on Mankind, but
it may be an impact that is neither expected nor beneficial. There are other concerns,
that I have not addressed, which can arise out of the adoption of the alien technology.
There is no real limit to the effects of the alien technology on Mankind, if it is adopted.
(c) IF WE REJECT IT, ARE THERE ANY IMPLICATIONS?
One can argue the obvious here, and the obvious is that giving up a technology
that is 1,000 years ahead of our own would be ridiculous. The argument would become
the assertion that, as with any new "human" technology, there will be risks attached to
adopting the alien technology, risks which dictate that there will be less than desirable
effects, including health risks and even death. However, in the course of History,
Mankind has always assumed risks in implementing new technologies, but somehow, at
the end of the day, Mankind has survived and moved ahead. In fact, is this not the
essence of Man, his ability to invent, adopt and adapt to new technologies? So is there
any real difference to Mankind if the alien technology is adopted?
The argument can be expanded to suggest that giving up a technology that is
1,000 years ahead of our own is stupid and a senseless waste of a new resource. For those who dream of going to the stars, it is giving up the method of getting there. For
the scientist, scholar or religious zealot who dreams of answers to questions posed in
his/her particular field of study, not adopting the alien technology may be likened to
blasphemy or heresy. Add to this the fact that this technology may eliminate all
disease, and the argument becomes: he who advocates the non-acceptance of this
technology is utterly crazy. Has Mankind not strived to eliminate and eradicate
disease? Has not Mankind earned the right to immortality? The real or factual
concerns may all have been remedied by the aliens in the development of this
technology. The aliens may have overcome the uncertainty of quantum physics;
removed the biases from their software; established strict rules, protocols and
guidelines for software development; found a way of removing all the bugs or defects
from software; found a way around the rule concerning ambitious systems; and dealt
with the matter of overconfidence. Ethically, it would be immoral (wrong or bad) to deny
ourselves the benefits of this alien technology. Surely, such benefits must outweigh the
disadvantages or detriments.
What appears to arise out of the answer to question (c) is that, unlike the answer
to question (b), the answer to question (c) has less to do with reality and more to do with
ideologies, whether religious, scientific or philosophical? In fact, the argument may
arise out of a leap of intuition as to the consequence of this new alien technology. Yet,
notwithstanding that the argument may have little basis in reality, this does not mean
that the argument is wrong or ill-founded, since often Mankind evolves and grows by
leaps of intuition and nothing more - often it is intuition, that moves Mankind forward.
(d) ASSUME THAT WE ARE TOLD THAT THE ALIEN TECHNOLOGY IS "ALIEN
SPECIFIC", BUT MIGHT BE ADAPTED TO HUMAN USE. WOULD YOUR
ANSWERS TO (a), (b) and (c) CHANGE? WHY?
At this point, the answer to this question should be self-evident. In this question,
we are confronted with the fact that the alien technology is "alien specific". This means
that it was developed by the aliens for the aliens only. It may not work on another
species at all.
Until question (d) was stated and this new fact added, one could argue that the
alien technology was not specific - that it could be applied to another species and, in
particular, mankind. This might have been enough to allow one to argue, successfully,
that the alien technology should be adopted. If it were not "alien specific", it might have
minimal impact on Mankind. However, now we learn that the technology is specific to
the aliens, alone. No longer do we have the luxury of arguing that there will be minimal
effect on Mankind, if this alien technology is adopted. Now the risk of harm to Humanity
has increased significantly, with the result that we must be far more cautious about
adopting such a technology, than we were before this additional fact was added. Now,
even more than before, the real or factual concerns come into play and must be more
seriously considered. The result is, potentially, a shift away from the argument to adopt
the alien technology, because in this one case, the consequences are likely to be far more real and much more detrimental, disadvantageous or devastating to Mankind. Be
that as it may, it must always be remembered that there will always be some who will
maintain that the addition of the fact that this technology is specific to the aliens, alone,
is meaningless, and does not change or affect the answer at all.
Once again, I want to stress that there is no right or wrong answer to the
questions posed by this fact situation. In fact, one could probably write an entire book in
an attempt to answer the questions. My answer is meant to be nothing more than a
guide to the different directions of argument that can be taken. Frankly, it does not
matter what answer you give to these questions, so long as the argument made is
supported by the concepts, issues and/or principles that you have learned in the first
part of the course. What matters is that you keep this fact situation in mind each and
every time you confront some form of new technology, remembering that there is
always a cost or effect. Sometimes, the cost or effect will stare you right in the face. At
other times, it will not be visible at all. It will be hidden.
END OF LECTURE 13
PART 1: THE INTERNET
There are numerous terms and descriptions that have been applied to the
"Internet". However, no matter what the Internet is called or how it is described, this
"Information Highway", as it is sometimes called, is an important use or application of
the new technology. I say use or application, because, without the new technology the
Internet would not exist.
The origins of the Internet are rather inconsequential, other than the fact that it
was originally designed for use by the military during World War II, which had to find a
way of ensuring that "secret" information would always reach its destination. Think
about this, for a moment, I shall come back to it.
CENTRALIZED AND DECENTRALIZED COMPUTER NETWORKS/SYSTEMS
In order to gain a better understanding of the Internet, it is first necessary to
consider two types of computer networks or systems. The first such network/system is
a centralized computer network/system. The second is a diagram of a
decentralized computer network/system. A centralized computer network is one in which there is one "main" computer
or a group of "main" computers to which all other computers must be linked for the
system/network to work properly. Examples of centralized computer networks include
America Online and C