From aeon: “Robot says: Whatever”

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From aeon

8.13.18
Margaret Boden

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Chief priest Bungen Oi holds a robot AIBO dog prior to its funeral ceremony at the Kofukuji temple in Isumi, Japan, on 26 April 2018. Photo by Nicolas Datiche /AFP/Getty
https://www.headlines24.nl/nieuwsartikel/135259/201808/robot–whatever

What stands in the way of all-powerful AI isn’t a lack of smarts: it’s that computers can’t have needs, cravings or desires.

In Henry James’s intriguing novella The Beast in the Jungle (1903), a young man called John Marcher believes that he is marked out from everyone else in some prodigious way. The problem is that he can’t pinpoint the nature of this difference. Marcher doesn’t even know whether it is good or bad. Halfway through the story, his companion May Bartram – a wealthy, New-England WASP, naturally – realises the answer. But by now she is middle-aged and terminally ill, and doesn’t tell it to him. On the penultimate page, Marcher (and the reader) learns what it is. For all his years of helpfulness and dutiful consideration towards May, detailed at length in the foregoing pages, not even she had ever really mattered to him.

That no one really mattered to Marcher does indeed mark him out from his fellow humans – but not from artificial intelligence (AI) systems, for which nothing matters. Yes, they can prioritise: one goal can be marked as more important or more urgent than another. In the 1990s, the computer scientists Aaron Sloman and Ian Wright even came up with a computer model of a nursemaid in charge of several unpredictable and demanding babies, in order to illustrate aspects of Sloman’s theory about anxiety in humans who must juggle multiple goals. But this wasn’t real anxiety: the computer couldn’t care less.

See the full article here .


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