What Kurzweil misses

I like the contrast of this week’s readings. I have read Kurzweil before and always felt he was too overwhelmingly positive about technological advancement. Particularly his content belief in the possibilities of AI. I simply don’t buy it. Atleast in my lifetime, we will never question whether we’ve achieved artificial intelligence or not. The goal post is much farther than he supposes.

There are three aspects of life Kurzweil overlooks in his analysis of consciousness and intelligence. The first is the will to survive. Human beings, in fact all life, share a will to survive and postpone death for as long as possible. This will is more than just a programmable response, it overrides everything else and in many ways defines life.

The second is the will to reproduce. All organisms desire to reproduce themselves, and without this will to reproduce they themselves would cease to be. This could possibly be programmed into a machine, but I would not consider a machine conscious until it desired its own reproduction.

The third is the journey, the training, or the learning mechanism. Even if a machine could write this blog article, it would not have become a writer of blog articles in the same way as I. Its journey would have been different. Whether this matters or not in determining consciousness or intelligence is possibly immaterial, but it is a difference that will never be reconciled between humans and machines.

What do folks think of these three aspects? Are they irrelevant since we can program a machine to emulate them? Can they never be reproduced in machines?

3 thoughts on “What Kurzweil misses

  1. I too have read Kurzweil before and echo many of these points.

    it was recently suggested to me that Kurzweil is just someone who’s tremendously afraid of death.

    regardless of what I said in my blogpost, the question about the learning mechanism is interesting. can some algorithm, broad enough in its use of statistical cues, refined enough in its feedback and iteration, model human learning satisfactorily? or is human learning too intertwined with memory and our sense of self? I guess the latter, and I actually err toward believing that this “sense of self,” or ego, which is a function of memory, that sets us apart from other machinery that think. but, as I said in my blogpost, I’m missing why I should care about setting us apart in the first place.

  2. Interesting points. I would question a few things. For one, is it human nature to postpone death for as long as possible? I’m thinking of Eastern cultures in which death, transience, and impermanence are embraced as opposed to resisted. I also question the will to reproduce; while it seems as if our bodies are simply vessels to reproduce, I also find it a very human quality to transcend the want and need to reproduce; our consciousness, our search and creation of “meaning” seems to raise us above “animal consciousness” in when create meaning to not reproduce (Ex; a couple that hates kids)

    To further this: can we create machines that create their own “meaning”?

  3. You mention the journey / training / education — that’s one that jumped out to me, as well. Not clear that Kurzweil’s intelligent machines would or could experience the actual early learning processes that shape future experience. It’s not just the recursion, the pattern recognition, the construction of neural networks and the distributions of memories — but also the elation of success and the weight of failure and the push and pull of interest. But maybe I’m missing the point here and going to far into what it means to be human as opposed to what it means to be conscious.

Comments are closed.