Demystified

von phorkyas

It’s kind of ironic: I mean it was like I had literally been waiting for that day. Learning to play go, dwelling in its rich tradition, subscribing to the computer go e-mail list years ago and reading all its news. And where did all this preparation lead to when Alphago appeared? Did I write any article, engage in the philosophical witticisms on HackerNews?

Nothing.

Maybe it’s also still absorbing the shock and.. the disappointment? Somehow when I read some bits of Dennett and the philosophy of mind it occurred to me that in our construction of „soul“ and „mind“ we inherently rely on a certain level of superiority that we assign to ourselves, the beholder of said soul or mental states. This really perpetuates all human endeavours I’d say. All the gods or cultural assets that are invoked to prove ones superiority. All the creativity creating our cultures, all the artefacts and immaterial, immortal works to decorate our inner worlds, aren’t they to show off, to separate one from the barbarians, the wild, the uncivilized. Isn’t it that it only works by condemning the other, the adversaries – the heathens, the uninitiated, the unenlightened? Is it not even the same with the nations which shield themselves against the other? And maybe it even lies at the heart of consciousness, as what Dennett calls the zombic hunch: This involuntary feeling that the unique and rich world of the human mind is always above the meaningless, mechanical utterings a machine or Chinese room might produce. This is still a common reaction to AI and also to AlphaGo. It may even be ingrained in our culture. By the nice shivers the apocalyptic images of the machines enslaving or destroying mankind, like in Terminator, Matrix or Bladerunner (or also in some kind „Alien“ where the monster though being organic got a machine like appearance by Giga’s design and is also admired by a robot for its perfect rational logic).

But should we really be afraid of them? Them robots, and AI’s? Was AlphaGo really a step towards general artificial intelligence? If AI’s can master such a complex game as go which may serve as metaphor for human decision making, where the possibilities are so large that we have to follow heuristics or lastly intuition, can we still be sure about the uniqueness of what our mind does? Or isn’t the whole inexplicable intuition just demystified if we can bring some neural nets to mimic the same behaviour as our brain? – Maybe it’s even a logical path in that with religion we created that great myth of the soul inside of us, like it was magically breathed into a dead body of clay, which we now unravel just to see that there is nothing transcendental and mystical going on?

Well, I just don’t know, but it leaves me a bit disenchanted… Maybe we should still believe in the spiritual, invisible, witch crafty world, which is not representable in some finite state machines,.. or maybe those are just witchcraft, too. Our human witchcraft called technology, isn’t it a bit spooky, too?