Artificial Intelegence: the Turing Test and the Soul

My son recently visited a local theme park and was very impressed with one of the attractions. Apparently it was some sort of animatronic that not only spoke but appeared to have the capability to hold conversations. “How do they do it dad?” He really wanted to know. From his perspective he was having a human dialogue with a machine. It answered questions, asked questions, and dialogued just as a human would. Impressive? Maybe, but the technology to execute these type of functions isn’t all too complicated. You can sample this here. However, what if increased technology can produce a machine that has the ability to think, generate genuine thoughts, be self conscious, in other words what if the technology allowed for machines to have a real mental life?

In 1950 Alan Turing published a paper in Mind (Journal) entitled Computing Machinery and Intelligence. Turing came up with a test to determine if a machine was demonstrating intelligence. The test consisted of a human judge who would have blind conversations with both machine and human attempting to determine which is which. If the judge incorrectly determines she is speaking with the human when speaking to the machine that would be regarded as evidence of genuine thinking on the part of the machine. Now as one may surmise there are many objection’s to Turing’s test and I might deal with them in later posts. But, what I find interesting is his theological objection.

Among the lists of objections that Turing lists, one that he cites is an objection from the position of God that can be framed this way:

i. Thinking is a function of man’s immortal soul generated by God

ii. There are some thing that God cannot logically generate (i.e. 1 = 2)

iii. There are no necessary conditions upon which God cannot logically generate a soul into other objects (i.e. inanimate objects like animals and machines)

Turing follows up by stating that, ” In attempting to construct such machines we should not be irreverently usurping His power of creating souls, any more than we are in the procreation of children: rather we are, in either case, instruments of His will providing .mansions for the souls that He creates”.

What can we conclude by this? If by adding a soul to an inanimate object does it become human? Or does God maintain the animate inanimate distinction by allowing only humans a soul? Or there is the less interesting conclusion of leaving God out of the  question which would create other philosophical problems that drift outside of Touring’s area of expertise.

What say you to this?

Pragmatism and Political Theory

I don’t typically enjoy writing or thinking about the current political climate viewing all the feuding, posturing, and rhetoric that takes place as trivial. So please bare with me as I try to get through this. Hillary Clinton – A Woman of No Convictions (which can be read  here) caused me to ask myself if this was true of Hillary.  First, I think the title was crafted in order to get views. As Americans we tend to enjoy these type of ad hominem attacks. The truth of the matter is as human beings we cannot help but have convictions about all kinds of things. So, what could the author be saying?

His argument is that Hillary shows a consistent pattern of flip flopping on the issues. Moreover he does do a good job at outlining these for us. However, I don’t find this to be the scathing criticism the author is making it out to be. “Flip flopping” on the issues has become a common practice on both sides of the isle.  I don’t think i’m ready to call a politician out for changing their position on an issue. Flip flopping can be perfectly warranted in cases of new information. “But what about cases where politicians change positions based on upon public opinion poles?” That will happen, we call that listening to the voice of the constituents. “But when Hillary does it its malicious because she is doing it for political gain”. Maybe, but since we don’t have access to Hillary’s heart and motives (or anyone else for that matter) we are forced to have to deal with the issues only.

“A Woman of No Convictions” is a bold statement. Think about that, “no convictions”. In Philosophy we call that a universal negative meaning that in all of Hillary’s being we don’t find one iota of conviction. Is that true?  I know of at least one, she wants to be in politics really bad. Plato actually believed that those who pursue political office probably weren’t the right person for the job. At any rate, Hillary does have convictions and this kind of rhetoric does nothing to help us advance the political ball if you will.  In fact what this kind of rhetoric does is it establishes a certain amount of legitimacy so that it because the accepted norm of political discourse. When that happens we will be extremely hard pressed to advance the political ball.

Having said that, I do believe that Hillary suffers from a serious dilemma.  In fact I will go so far as to say that it isn’t just Hillary but many who go into political office suffer from this same dilemma which happens to be a pragmatic political theory.  As we have grown increasingly anti or non intellectual as a culture our ability to govern diminishes and the only paradigm we have left is pragmatism. This isn’t just a problem affecting a politician, it affects all of us as a culture. I’d like to hear your thoughts.