Why AI won’t work. Probably.

While one can never say never, I think that Matthew may well be correct.

Matthew Wright

One of the main tropes of science fiction has to be the self-aware robot or computer – one mobile, the other not, but both presented as self-aware and able to think as we do, although often better.

I think, therefore I am a slide rule.

Often, Frankenstein-style, the AI develops malevolence. That was a trope long before HAL; virtually all of Asimov’s robot stories from the 1940s onwards were designed to counter the notion of the AI turning on its creators. Asimov’s answer – which, apparently, was proposed to him by John W. Campbell – were the ‘laws of robotics’ in which machines simply couldn’t harm humans.

Inevitably, these laws didn’t work, and Asimov knew it; a lot of his stories involved finding ways that the laws failed. He spelled out the main point of failure in one of the final robot novels: all the builder had to do was…

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7 thoughts on “Why AI won’t work. Probably.

  1. Mick Canning

    Robots wont be self-aware in the sense they will be conscious, certainly, but I suspect they will be able to mimic this with advanced programming. Where that leaves us, I dread to think.

    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      You may be right, Mick. As to where that leaves us, I think that the jury is still very much out on that question.

      From time to time one comes across articles about sex robots. Its even been suggested by one researcher that such machines could eliminate the world’s oldest profession by providing “services” to those in search of company and, of course sex. I’m somewhat sceptical as to whether prostitution will ever disappear and am of the belief that so long as there are humans around the world’s oldest profession will continue to ply it’s trade.

      Some years back I purchased a Roomba vacuuming robot. It is about as effective as a carpet sweeper and has a habit of pulling down lamps and other objects if the owner fails to remember to remove trailing cables etc! I haven’t used the Roomba for years and I can’t see the role of the lady who cleans my home once a week been replaced by a machine any time soon.

      I guess that as with any tool it is, ultimately about how one utilises it, rather than the tool itself being good or bad although, in the case of robots they are potentially different (assuming that they develop true intelligence).

      All the best – Kevin

      1. Mick Canning

        I know we’ve discussed this in the past, Kevin, and what it really needs is a long essay! But, failing that, I do think that it won’t be possible to give robots true awareness as we understand it (in the sense of sentient creatures). In other words the potential of rebellion by robots such as HAL in 2001 A Space Odyssey seems unlikely, although I do enjoy making a joke about it every time I see an advert for that wretched Alexa thing on T.V.

        But what does worry me (or, if I’m honest, scares the crap out of me!) is the potential for disaster with robots programmed to make life or death decisions based on logic without further human intervention, which leads us to military robots – potentially the stuff of nightmares. A consequence of the logic built into them having consequences their human programmers failed to adequately write fail-safe programs for. It wouldn’t be that they wanted to destroy all humans, but it might be the result of the actions taken as a result of the calculations made by those programs. A variation of what everyone who has worked in the computer industry knows as GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out.

      2. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

        You make a good point as regards military robots, Mick. While I would by no means discount what you say, I believe that we have much more to fear from a crazed (human) dictator or group of terrorists. For example a group of religious fanatics who are convinced that they are going to heaven anyway might well detonate a nuclear device (or try to do so) to kill non-believers or release bacterialogical weapons and/or nerve gas. Best – Kevin Virus-free. http://www.avast.com

      3. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

        It happened in Japan a little while back – the release of nerve gas on their underground. As regards your previous comment on the Amazon Echo, I must confess to owning one. Being registered blind I find it very useful for playing music, listening to audio books from Audible and Amazon (Kindle) titles with the text to speech enabled. I don’t have a “Smart Home” so don’t have lights, heating etc controlled by Alexia. What is it you don’t like about the Echo? Virus-free. http://www.avast.com

      4. Mick Canning

        I can see how it is great for you, Kevin, but for many people it just seems another way to do even less than they do already. Why get up from the sofa to switch a light on, or go into the next room to speak to someone when a machine can do it?

        And the Aum cult in Japan – yes, I remember that. Sooner or later I suppose there will be something much deadlier, because terrorists seem to always want to up the ante and go one better than anyone else.

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