Monday, November 23, 2015

"Thinking Machines" Lecture at Waterloo November 27 -- And a Free Bingo Card

At first glance, this upcoming lecture at the University of Waterloo looks like it might be interesting:

Date: Friday, November 27, 2015 - 7:30pm
Lecture Title: Mathematics and Thinking Machines
Talk abstract: In the nineteenth century, mathematician Charles Babbage designed a programmable calculating machine that could execute algorithms with an accuracy and speed surpassing human abilities. Though Babbage’s mechanical computer remained unbuilt during his lifetime, his interest in developing machine intelligence anticipated twenty-first-century concerns about the promises, limitations, uses, and misuses of machine-generated data. This lecture will consider how our conceptions of thinking machines have evolved over the past 200 years and what issues may arise in the future. What does it mean to imagine machines “thinking”? What avenues are made available to us by the power of machine mathematics? And in what ways do calculating machines challenge our sense that human cognition is an exceptional phenomenon?

But when I look at the people speaking, I'm not so confident.

Nevertheless, I'll probably go.

To keep myself amused, I've made the bingo card below. It contains just a few of the worst arguments (courtesy of people like Michael Egnor, David Gelernter, John Searle, Roger Penrose, and Hubert Dreyfus) that I've heard proposed against the idea of thinking machines.

If you want to join me, print out a copy and bring it. Try not to disrupt the lecture by shouting "Bingo", though.


William Spearshake said...

Where are the three laws of robotics?

Richard Wein said...

Old post, I know. But I'm curious to hear how many of those points came up in the lecture!

By the way, I recently wrote my own refutation of the egregious Chinese Room argument:

Jeffrey Shallit said...

A few of them got approached without being stated explicitly. Overall, I was somewhat unimpressed with the quality of the talks.

Why do you think the Chinese room argument got so much attention, when it is pretty clearly bogus? I am really amazed by the arrogance of philosophers who think they can demolish a whole field like strong AI with such a simple-minded argument. It reminds me of how creationists act.

My 15-year-old talk on AI, by the way, had an example very similar to one of yours. See

ScienceAvenger said...

I'd put odds on computers playing high quality Go ahead of them playing high quality poker, and last I checked, they were making large strides on both fronts.

Richard Wein said...

> Why do you think the Chinese room argument got so much attention, when it
is pretty clearly bogus?

1. People generally are not very good at making and assessing arguments on more abstract subjects, and that includes many philosophers.

2. Philosophers also often labour under the burden of certain misguided ways of thinking that they've picked up from reading other philosophers.

3. Because so much philosophy is misguided there's not enough consensus among philosophers to establish much in the way of standards, so even abysmal philosophy can get taken seriously.

> It reminds me of how creationists act.

Searle reminds me of a religious apologist in the way that he will accept any argument that superficially seems to support his intuition, without subjecting it to any serious scrutiny.