How AI Articulates & Expands Our Understanding of Human Intelligence

Dec 4, 2014

In this edition of In Perspective we teamed up with Views and Brews for a discussion on various elements of and debates over artificial intelligence, discussing what it actually means to think; how knowledge of computers' inner-workings affect our understanding of the human brain; and the future of artificial intelligence. 

Listen back as KUT's Rebecca McInroy discusses all things A.I. with philosopher Dr. Galen Strawson, computer scientist Dr. Peter Stone and novelist-poet Dr. Louisa Hall

For this episode of In Perspective, we’ve enlisted the help of KUT's Views & Brews. Above you can hear our roundtable confront some of the issues of intelligence — specifically, the question of how to define consciousness and intelligence and how that relates to humanity. 

The Discussion

Galen Strawson is a professor of philosophy at UT-Austin, whose research interests include philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and moral psychology. He provides both historical and philosophical contexts for this discussion. Strawson suggests that we not only understand humans as rational, per Aristotle, but as also emotional. For him, there is an important tension to tease out between consciousness and the appearance of consciousness.

Peter Stone is a university distinguished teaching professor in the Department of Computer Science at UT-Austin. He is the founder and director of UT’s Learning Agents Research Group in the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. In this discussion, Stone stresses the importance of acknowledging the assumptions we make about intelligence as an indicator of humanity. He warns against conflating the two, since creating artificial intelligence does not mean creating artificial humans. He asks: Why expect computer intelligence to mimic human intelligence?

Louisa Hall is a lecturer in the Department of English at UT-Austin. Her latest novel "Speak" explores the possibility of a robotic revolution in order to get at what it means to be human. On In Perspective, Hall shares a passage from her book and discusses the classic argument that until a computer can compose a sonnet from emotion, it will not achieve the creative power of the human brain. She questions how we can ever know that a sonnet is written from emotion, whether as a product of the human brain or that of a computer.

What’s your perspective?

This discussion addresses several of the questions that frame debates about and research into artificial intelligence, and it generates many more seemingly unanswerable ones. In literature and popular media, science fiction is sometimes seen as predicting the future in its imagining of new technologies and even new beings. As Stone reveals, it also creates unrealistic expectations for computer scientists working on artificial intelligence. Yet, we continue to imagine a future in which intelligent machines might make humans obsolete. If computers and artificial intelligence are products of the human brain, then how can computers outsmart humans? Might the future hold a computer that can function of its own free will?

Check back next month for our fourth In Perspective roundtable.