“ I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.”
~ Oscar Wilde
Just what the heck is intelligence anyway? It’s one thing to recognize intelligence, it’s another to spot when it’s fake. Is there more than one kind of intelligence? Well, that would seem to be logical, (and I suppose logic is one form of intelligence!).
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock or successfully staying put on a desert island, you surely haven’t avoided the latest buzzwords making the rounds, that is, all the hype about “Artificial Intelligence” or A.I. as the vernacular goes.
For all of its bells and whistles, it points to a basic fact of human nature — we love to anthropomorphize practically everything, especially the latest gadget to come along.
Let’s face it, computers are just fancy gadgets. They’ve gone from simple adding machines to clever accounting mechanisms to the wonderful wizard inside your phone who can look things up for you and answer in your preferred accent. (I have Siri trained to speak in the manner of a proper London native.)
Automatons that can perform clever parlor tricks have long been in fashion. Anyone who has been to Disneyland and taken the “It’s a Small World” excursion or ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ can vouch for that.
The story of Magnus Eisengrim’s early years animating the interior of Abdullah the card playing curiosity in Robertson Davies’ epic novel World of Wonders is particularly insightful into this phenomenon.
As he says: “Abdullah pulled in the rubes because people cannot resist automata. There is something in humanity that is repelled and entranced by a machine that seems to have more than human powers. Look at the fuss nowadays about computers; however, deft they may be they can’t do anything a man isn’t doing, through them; but you hear people giving themselves delicious shivers about a computer-dominated world.”
Written nearly 50 years ago, his words ring true today. So when you hear today’s techno-evangelists rhapsodizing about the ‘singularity’ and the glories of ChatGPT, (which, by the way, translates into “the cat has flatulence” in French), remember the words of Eisengrim and balance the hype with the laws of human nature.
I guess the more salient question is whether an LLM. (Large Language Model) can have gut feelings. We humans have something called body intelligence that’s bound to remain out of reach of any automata for the foreseeable future. The ineffable element of intuition remains ours and ours alone.
Amphetamine-addled science-fiction writer Philip K Dick asked the question in the title of one of his books — “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” (which later became the movie Blade Runner). One hopes that it’s safe to say that the ability to dream may be our saving grace in this Brave New World.
Much love until next week, keep that body moving and listen to what it has to say!
Director of the Dance First Association
Publisher of Conscious Dancer Magazine