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The Failure Of Artificial Intelligence Essay

1352 words - 5 pages

The reality of AI, or artificial intelligence, is generally regarded to be a teleological fait accompli: sooner or later, they argue, computers will actually think. Of course, with the backing of many a member of MIT's Media Lab and corporate IT departments anywhere, this conclusion is unquestionable. I would here like to avoid downplaying the great strides made in recent years by computer technologists in promoting this evolutionary vision. But certain aspects of this technological revolution have, indeed, already been achieved. Parallels between current AI eschatology and the triumphs of one Clever Hans are striking both in terms of those creating the technology and that which expresses it.

The story of Clever Hans is too famous to bear repeating in detail here, but one should be reminded that Hans's ability to do simple addition and subtraction was facilitated by his handler unconsciously giving him signals about how many times he should move his hoof to indicate the correct answer to the questions put to him. This behavior was reinforced when the handler gave him food for correct answers. His equine intelligence is hardly surprising just on the basis of the facts alone: similar miracles have been developed to exploit the grand smarts of pigeons, chicks, pigs - the what-have-you of the animal world - by many a diligent entrepreneur. What was extraordinary about Hans's case was that the horse's handler himself had no idea he was giving the subtle signals that led to the miraculous results. If the answer was "five" Hans's handler would inadvertently nod the correct number of times and Hans would follow suit, clomping with his hoof five times, knowing full and well that this game of "horsey-see-horsey-do" would result in a tasty treat. The handler had spent so much time with Hans that a delicate feedback loop had developed, increasing the horse's abilities and making the handler himself part of the functioning mechanism; Hans and his handler had become the first documented cybernetic system.

Unfortunately, the preponderance of zoologists and developmental psychologists view the achievements of Clever Hans as a simple ruse. They accept the scientifico-skeptical tradition that fails to see that, through his unconscious conditioning, Hans and his handler became cybernetic. This same scientifico-skeptical tradition has led to the other cultural trends such as "irony," which, as Purdy implies, is quickly leading to this civilization's downfall. Such anti-techno-triumphalist trends are even more reason that AI researchers should move in an even quicker, more practical way teleologically, as we shall see below.

Research by Squeamous et al has indicated that those intent on developing AI tend to spend much time refining and tweaking their hardware and software systems, generally well over 80 hours a week (14). They tend to be almost fanatical in their pursuit of what they have predetermined as possible ("Learnings" 144). From this develops an...

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