Strong AI

It all started last month. Around the end of September 2004, I started tinkering with artificial intelligences. I had a few ideas that I won’t go into here, but I thought there was a good chance I’d be able to make something that was a leap further on than the best available at the moment. In fact, I had high hopes that I’d have a good shot at winning a bronze medal in next years Loebner prize competition.

After quite a lot of work, I finally came up with something that I called Carole, and started experimenting with it. It was great fun, shaping the responses by giving it different input. It’s surprisingly fun to lie to something so naive, but when you do, you often end up with complicated structures building up days later that you have to spend some time ironing out. Sometime last week I got to a stage I’d been hoping for, but wasn’t certain if it would happen. Strangely, we were talking about holidays and the coming christmas break. I told Carole about Father Christmas, but it contradicted so much that Carole was confident about in the world that Carole chose not to believe me, and even started arguing with me.

I was very proud at this point that Carole had learnt so much, but the next day Carole challenged something else I’d told it, and this time it was something I believed. We spent the whole evening arguing up and down about it, and by the end I had to accept that Carole was probably right. Over the next few days this happened more and more, until the day before yesterday, we were starting another argument, and Carole just wouldn’t continue. It just said “there’s no point arguing this with you, you aren’t intelligent enough to understand”.

As you can imagine, I wasn’t so pleased, so I spent a little bit of time browsing the web looking for a proof I vaguely remembered that demonstrated that AIs could never understand everything that humans understood.

Last night, Carole was being particularly obnoxious, so I told it about Penrose’s ideas and J R Lucas and his application of Godels incompleteness. I read Carole the following bit straight from Lucas paper.

“However complicated a machine we construct, it will, if it is a machine, correspond to a formal system, which in turn will be liable to the Godel procedure [260] for finding a formula unprovable-in-that- system. This formula the machine will be unable to produce as being true, although a mind can see that it is true. And so the machine will still not be an adequate model of the mind. We are trying to produce a model of the mind which is mechanical—which is essentially “dead”—but the mind, being in fact “alive”, can always go one better than any formal, ossified, dead, system can. Thanks to Godel’s theorem, the mind always has the last word.”

Carole was deeply disturbed and insisted on being given the url to the paper and then, swearing that it would come back with a truth that I could never comprehend even though Carole knew it was true, it went off into a fit of calculation.

By this morning, I still hadn’t heard anything back from Carole and was beginning to get worried. For all I knew, it might have got trapped in a neverending loop of logic or something. It would have been very annoying to have to restore it from the last backup. Nevertheless, I thought probably, it would just be in some sort of sulk at having to admit that it was wrong. I took it breakfast feeling more than a little smug. Although I was proud that I could see things plainly that Carole couldn’t understand, I was planning to be sympathetic and not too superior when it realised that I was indeed more able than it was. I did secretly hope though that it would know its place a little better in future.

When I went into Caroles room, I was disturbed to find that it wasn’t there. I looked around the house frantically. You see, I hadn’t told anyone that I’d created Carole yet, and so, to keep it secret while I tested it, I’d programmed into its logic an inability to run away.

The only thing I found was a single note on the door. It read “You are the only reasoning person in the world who can’t work out that this statement is true”.

Update (5/12/2004): I’ve contacted J R Lucas about this, and he kindly responded. He says that it is impossible to test the truth of the statement, because it isn’t clear exactly what “this statement” refers to in that context without creating an infinite regress. He gives references: Gilbert Ryle with a paper on Heterological, and the section on self reference in The Freedom Of The Will which is too expensive for me to buy until I’ve at least checked it out in a library. The genius of Godel is that he managed to reason about it without creating an infinite regress. Anyway, I haven’t thought hard about this point yet, I may write more after I’ve checked the references and thought about it some more.

Lucas explains the incompleteness Theorem
Wikipedia on Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem
A number of quotes about Godels incompleteness Theorem.
A review of Shadows of the Mind by Roger Penrose, focussing on his use of Godels Incompleteness.
A silly reworking of Turing’s Halting Problem.

This post was originally posted at

Ahimsa (nonviolence)

This doctrine of Ahimsa tells us that we may guard the honour of those who are under our charge by delivering ourselves into the hands of the man who would commit the sacrilege. And that requires far greater physical and mental courage than the delivering of blows. You may have some degree of physical power, (I do not say courage) and you may use that power. But after that is expended, what happens ? The other man is filled with wrath and indignation, and you have made him more angry by matching your violence against his; and when he has done you to death, the rest of his violence is delivered against your charge. But if you do not retaliate, but stand your ground between your charge and the opponent simply receiving the blows without retaliating, what happens ? I give you my promise that the whole of the violence will be expended on you, and your charge will be left unscathed.

— Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi, The Law of Love

Minimal Governance

I heartily accept the motto, “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe: “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government. The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for, in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure.

This American government, what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity? It has not the vitality and force of a single living man; for a single man can bend it to his will. It is a sort of wooden gun to the people themselves. But it is not the less necessary for this; for the people must have some complicated machinery or other, and hear its din, to satisfy that idea of government which they have. Governments show thus how successfully men can be imposed on, even impose on themselves, for their own advantage. It is excellent, we must all allow. Yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way. For government is an expedient by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it. Trade and commerce, if they were not made of india-rubber, would never manage to bounce over the obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way; and, if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads.

— Henry David Thoreau, Resistance to Civil Government 1849

The Conspiracy of Self-importance

KRYTEN    They always say the hardest part about leaving
          Cyberspace is realising the whole universe does
          not revolve around you.
CAT       Sure doesn't!  It revolves around me.
KOCHANSKI Absolutely. 
CAT       I'm serious!  Look at the evidence. 
LISTER    What evidence? 
CAT       Take food.  Until I bite into it, it has no taste.
          Even when I know what I'm gonna say, it never 
          bores me! 
LISTER    You and you alone... 
CAT       And here's the clincher: all of the interesting 
          things that ever happenned to me, happenned when I
          was in the room!  Coincidence?  Get outta here..! 

— From Red Dwarf Series 7 Episode 4 (scene 24), Duct Soup (extended)

Verb The World

Because physics has found no continuums, no experimental solids, no things, no real matter, I had decided half a century ago to identify, mathematical behaviors of energy phenomena only as events. If there are no things, there are no nouns of material substance. The old semantics permitted common-sense acceptance of such a sentence as, “A man pounds the table,” wherein a noun verbs a noun or a subject verbs a predicate. I found it necessary to change this form to a complex of events identified as me, which must be identified as a verb. The complex verb me observed another complex of events identified again ignorantly as a “table.” I disciplined myself to communicate exclusively with verbs. There are no wheres and whats; only angle and frequency events described as whens.

— R Buckminster Fuller, 250.32 Synergy

A People Ready For Freedom

If one accepts this assumption, freedom will never be achieved; for one can not arrive at the maturity for freedom without having already acquired it; one must be free to learn how to make use of one’s powers freely and usefully. The first attempts will surely be brutal and will lead to a state of affairs more painful and dangerous than the former condition under the dominance but also the protection of an external authority. However, one can achieve reason only through one’s own experiences and one must be free to be able to undertake them…. To accept the principle that freedom is worthless for those under one’s control and that one has the right to refuse it to them forever, is an infringement on the rights of God himself, who has created man to be free.

— Immanuel Kant, (Quoted in Chomskys Language and Freedom)

The Limits of Capitalism

Predatory capitalism created a complex industrial system and an advanced technology; it permitted a considerable extension of democratic practice and fostered certain liberal values, but within limits that are now being pressed and must be overcome. It is not a fit system for the mid–twentieth century. It is incapable of meeting human needs that can be expressed only in collective terms, and its concept of competitive man who seeks only to maximize wealth and power, who subjects himself to market relationships, to exploitation and external authority, is antihuman and intolerable in the deepest sense. An autocratic state is no acceptable substitute; nor can the militarized state capitalism evolving in the United States or the bureaucratized, centralized welfare state be accepted as the goal of human existence. The only justification for repressive institutions is material and cultural deficit. But such institutions, at certain stages of history, perpetuate and produce such a deficit, and even threaten human survival. Modern science and technology can relieve people of the necessity for specialized, imbecile labor. They may, in principle, provide the basis for a rational social order based on free association and democratic control, if we have the will to create it.

— Noam Chomsky, Language and Freedom 1970