1 May 2021
Chocolate Grinder, Marcel Duchamp; Image credit: Wikiart
The author philosophically questions the hope (and fear) of building an Artificial Intelligence (AI) that matches and surpasses human mental faculties. Starting from John Searle's criticisms of the idea that computer software "understands", the author questions the very concept of the machine, starting from its earliest implementations (a jug, a knife…). AI could achieve a mind comparable to the human one only if it were able to enter into an evolutionary process similar to that of life on earth, of which Homo sapiens is the product. But if this were to happen, human beings would no longer be able to judge an evolved AI as "intelligence." The very concepts of "understanding" and "thinking" are inseparable from the natural history of life, that is, AI would cease to be a simple simulation of human capabilities – as it is now – only if it were to take the path of an evolution completely similar to that of life. In fact, in order to say that a computer “understands”, computers would have to be able to reproduce themselves. Finally, the author problematizes the concept of environment (Umwelt), taking up the analyses of the biologist von Uexküll. That is, that thanks to language, Homo sapiens is able to think of something that is unthinkable: what one would call “the real” beyond its own Umwelt.