Darwin & Turing: The Evolution of Artificial Intelligence

What evolution and computer science have taught us is that comprehension is not required for competence. Similarly, the human mind may not be so mysterious as is often thought. 

What's the Latest Development?


This weekend marks 100 years since the birth of Alan Turing, the English logician who successfully cracked Nazi coding machines during WWII. Having pioneered concepts like "algorithm" and "computation", Turing is considered one of the chief architects of early computing as well as what would become artificial intelligence. Daniel Dennett, philosophy professor at Tufts University, sees a remarkable similarity between the thought of Turing and Charles Darwin. Both realized, according to Dennett, that comprehension is not necessary to achieve competency. In other words, neither the process of evolution nor contemporary computers are self-aware, but they nonetheless perform complex operations extremely efficiently. 

What's the Big Idea?

Dennett believes the idea that competency can be achieved without comprehension sheds light on our own conscious processes and helps to clarify the mind-body problem, i.e. how consciousness can arise from unconscious matter. "There is no principled line above which true comprehension is to be found," said Dennett, "even in our own case. The small child sorta understands her own sentence 'Daddy is a doctor,' and I sorta understand 'E=mc2.'" In other words, machines may not need to fully understand what "love" or "affection" mean in order to offer these condolences to humans, or to each other. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

 

Related Articles
Playlists
Keep reading Show less

Five foods that increase your psychological well-being

These five main food groups are important for your brain's health and likely to boost the production of feel-good chemicals.

Mind & Brain

We all know eating “healthy” food is good for our physical health and can decrease our risk of developing diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease. What is not as well known is that eating healthy food is also good for our mental health and can decrease our risk of depression and anxiety.

Keep reading Show less

For the 99%, the lines are getting blurry

Infographics show the classes and anxieties in the supposedly classless U.S. economy.

What is the middle class now, anyway? (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs

For those of us who follow politics, we’re used to commentators referring to the President’s low approval rating as a surprise given the U.S.'s “booming” economy. This seeming disconnect, however, should really prompt us to reconsider the measurements by which we assess the health of an economy. With a robust U.S. stock market and GDP and low unemployment figures, it’s easy to see why some think all is well. But looking at real U.S. wages, which have remained stagnant—and have, thus, in effect gone down given rising costs from inflation—a very different picture emerges. For the 1%, the economy is booming. For the rest of us, it’s hard to even know where we stand. A recent study by Porch (a home-improvement company) of blue-collar vs. white-collar workers shows how traditional categories are becoming less distinct—the study references "new-collar" workers, who require technical certifications but not college degrees. And a set of recent infographics from CreditLoan capturing the thoughts of America’s middle class as defined by the Pew Research Center shows how confused we are.

Keep reading Show less