Up@dawn 2.0

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Life's Decisions and Sacrifice/Artificial Inelegance-Alan Turing and John Searle

Posted for Alexis Patrykus, Section #4

Soren Kierkegaard lived an interesting, agonizing life who was all too familiar with sacrifice. He had to make a choice as to whether or not he would be married. He loved a girl named Regine Olsen, but was afraid that he would be too gloomy and religious for her. In the end, he sacrificed his happiness for not only what he thought would make Regine happier, but also, he put his religion above himself. Because of this difficult personal decision, he wrote a book called Either/Or. In the book, he raises an intriguing thought about decision making: One has to choose a life of pleasure and chase after beauty or a life based on conventional moral rules. One choice leads a life of happiness but perhaps illogical at times. The other choice might be more tragic but rational. A great example of this conundrum that was used is from the Old Testament of the Bible. Abraham was told by God to kill his only son. Now of course Abraham would never want to do that because he loved his son. That would be a gravely unfortunate sacrifice, let alone a morally wrong choice. Abraham knew that, but because of his intense faith in God, he ties up Isaac and goes in for the kill. Right as he was about to cut him an angel stops Abraham. The moral of the story is that God wants us to trust Him and obey Him. If we do, God will meet our needs; or in this case, you will not have to kill your only son. Abraham is seen as admirable because of this illogical faith. He was willing to ignore ethics for his religion. As the book A Little History of Philosophy states, “There is no higher card in the pack, and so human ethics are no longer relevant. Yet the person who abandons ethics in favor of faith makes an agonizing decision, risking everything, not knowing what will happen; not knowing for sure that the message is truly from God.”

In these cases, the man sacrifices what he loves for his religion. Kierkegaard did not just merely believe in God. His philosophy was that one must fully commit to God and take the leap of faith into the unknown, even if it means going against conventional ideas of what one should do. But, doing so, is this rational? Ultimately the bottom line is what the highest calling is. To each person it is different. Some would say that being a good person is the highest duty. So naturally that person would tend to follow conventional moral values. Some people are religious and put God first.

Doing that calls for some illogical moves when looking at it from a logical or ethical perspective. Kierkegaard never married, showing that throughout his life he kept choosing religion over his own happiness. Abraham had a better outcome: he obeyed God and did not have to actually sacrifice his son.

Computers and brains are a lot alike. In fact, computers can do many things brains can

do. They both process and think. Alan Turing believed that what was “interesting about the brain

isn’t that it has the consistency of cold porridge. Its function matters more than the way it

wobbles when removed from the head, or the fact that it is gray.” When we judge a person’s

intelligence, we don’t open up their brain to see how the neurons join together, we focus on their

answer to a question. Yet, when one judges a computer, they look on the inward workings of it.

This is what spurred Alan Turing to create the Turing Test. This test consists of an individual

typing on a computer and having a conversation with either another person or a computer that

generates responces. The individual does not know whether it is a person or a computer. If the

individual cannot tell the difference between the person and the computer, then the computer

passes the Turing Test. It is also reasonable to say that the computer is intelligent and can be

compared to a human being.

Other philosophers had opposing views. John Searle is one who believed that computers

did not think, and are completely different than the human mind. Computers just do what they

are programmed to do and do not have genuine intelligence. Searle put it this way: a computer

that is programmed a certain way is syntax. “They provide rules in the correct order in which to

process the symbols, but they do not provide it with a semantics.” There is no meaning to the

symbols. Using this perspective and channeling it towards the human mind, people actually

mean what they say. Computers only imitate the human thought, but it is not genuine. Searle

demonstrated his belief- that computers do not actually think even if it appears to- by creating a

thought experiment. Both a programmed computer and an individual are tested in this scenario.

The person (or computer) is in a room and has to pair a card with a Chinese symbol on it with

another Chinese symbol in a book. Once the person/computer matches the card, they push it

through a letterbox. The criticism of his experiment is that a person can conduct the experiment

and not actually know what is going on just as much as a computer. True understanding is not

just blindly giving the right answers.

So which idea is right? Or are they both wrong? Humans are the ones who created

computers, so is it even possible that man can create something bigger and smarter than itself?

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