Posts Tagged “free will”
In “From Content is King’ to GODLIKE, Part 3,” we described the three important manifestations in which artificial intelligence (AI) manifests, and how you are already consuming and making decisions based on AI even though you probably are not aware of Big Tech Brother. In part 4, we look at this godlike creature as an omniscient force. And much like many Abrahamic gods which invoke optimal power, knowledge, and foresight, we examine implications on human free will and whether there is such a thing.
For most, free will represents our capacity to behave autonomously within the reality we co-occupy with everyone else. (Well, at least most of us. Some people do not share our reality. They attest to seeing and hearing things that cannot be verified by anyone else. We call these things delusions. In addition, some people are seemingly incapable of showing empathy toward others. Mental health professionals designate such types as psychopaths or sociopaths.)
Many aspects of free will are strongly contested by philosophers, psychologists, and other academicians. But for our purposes, we’ll examine the ways in which content is presented to us on various digital devices such as computers, smartphones, and notebooks.
Example Number One: You are asked to come up with a name of any city of your choosing. You end up picking Philadelphia, but why did you choose Philadelphia of all the cities in your memory? What criteria did you use, or was the process random, or may be arbitrary? If recent studies are to be believed, you probably picked Philadelphia for arbitrary reasons along with a healthy helping of determinism. First, you probably are aware of several thousand cities, tens of thousands actually. But did you audition all of them when asked to pick a city? Nope. That literally takes way too much memory to pull off. So just like a computer uses RAM (rapid access memory) so does your brain. That leaves maybe a dozen or so cities that are in your own RAM, mostly cities you interact with regularly, or cities referenced very recently while consuming online (or offline) content. And now that you think about it, you know why you picked Philadelphia. You watched a Youtube video of Live Aid last night to see if the Led Zeppelin performance was as mediocre as your friend claims. Turns out, he was right.
It also turns out, based on your own account, that your selection of Philadelphia was determined by the factors you described. True. Not 100 percent deterministic but a probable choice indeed, one that becomes quite predictable, although not exact, among say, 20,000 of the most popular cities.
AI marketers know this too. So the next time you go to your favorite portal, take a look at those ads. Each one is contending for selection of your next so-called free choice.
In the recent article by Abigail Klein Leichman titled “Could robots replace psychologists, politicians and poets?” published by Israel30c.com, Leichman concludes that AI will never develop a mind that can solve problems. Yet many neuroscientists, computer scientists, and those on the front lines of neural networks, machine learning, and all-things artificial intelligence believe they already have evidence that computers will develop true learning capabilities and some already have.
For the purpose of this essay, I’ll combine machine learning, neural networks, and artificial intelligence into the artificial intelligence monolith. In fact, today there is little difference between three other than their labels and the baggage that each label carries.
This debate has been around since humans started asking important existential questions. For most, free will is a given. We just must have it because by most accounts we are free to make decisions or choices save for governmental, religious or cultural restrictions and taboos. Even many theists advocate for free will. Christianity is predicated on it, that God gave us all free will so that we are free to accept the Christian god but don’t have to. Yet aside from these authorities it certainly seems that we have free choice, that we are presented with options and make a decision. Such decisions can be as simple as choosing which flavor of ice cream or as consequential as to whom to marry or what philosophy or politic to endorse.
Philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris says not true, and he believes he can prove it. In his best selling book, Free Will, Harris presents several scientific studies conducted over two decades that seem to confirm that free will is a delusion. The studies all conclude that the unconscious brain is what makes each and every decision, then it sends that information (and the conclusion) to our conscious mind where we then go through the motions of deciding something that was already decided, usually about a second before we began our conscious deliberation, sometimes a bit longer or shorter depending on the complexity of what is being considered. Yes. All of this has been measured and the data is quite unambiguous.
So how does this impact artificial intelligence and computers’ ability to think, solve problems, even give psychological advice and direction? If Harris is right, the question itself is misguided, arrogant and flat out wrong, for all the assumptions from which it hinges are incorrect. I must say, this is one of those rare times when new science tends to contradict the prevailing reality of existence, not to mention it’s counterintuitive if not downright unpleasant to consider, which is where I’m at right now.
That said, more on the fascinating topic of artificial intelligence to come, I promise.