Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: July 14, 2021, 7:01 a.m. Humanist 35.138 - informed sci-fi on AI

				                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 138.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                   		Hosted by DH-Cologne
                       www.dhhumanist.org
                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org


    [1]    From: Tim Smithers 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.136: informed sci-fi on AI? (77)

    [2]    From: Henry Schaffer 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.136: informed sci-fi on AI? (5)


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: 2021-07-13 20:13:08+00:00
        From: Tim Smithers 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.136: informed sci-fi on AI?

Dear Willard,

This may not be what you're looking for, but, to me, it kind
of fits.

   Arthur C Clarke (1953) The Nine Billion Names of God
   (https://urbigenous.net/library/nine_billion_names_of_god.html)
   [2,620 words]

Plot summary (from Wikipedia)

  In a Tibetan lamasery, the monks seek to list all of the
  names of God.  They believe the Universe was created for
  this purpose, and that once this naming is completed, God
  will bring the Universe to an end.  Three centuries ago, the
  monks created an alphabet in which they calculated they
  could encode all the possible names of God, numbering about
  9,000,000,000 ("nine billion") and each having no more than
  nine characters.  Writing the names out by hand, as they had
  been doing, even after eliminating various nonsense
  combinations, would take another 15,000 years; the monks
  wish to use modern technology to finish this task more
  quickly.

  They rent a computer capable of printing all the possible
  permutations, and hire two Westerners to install and program
  the machine.  The computer operators are skeptical but play
  along.  After three months, as the job nears completion,
  they fear that the monks will blame the computer (and, by
  extension, its operators) when nothing happens.  The
  Westerners delay the operation of the computer so that it
  will complete its final print run just after their scheduled
  departure.  After their successful departure on ponies, they
  pause on the mountain path on their way back to the
  airfield, where a plane is waiting to take them back to
  civilization.  Under a clear night sky they estimate that it
  must be just about the time that the monks are pasting the
  final printed names into their holy books.  Then they notice
  that "overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out."

It's an early piece of Digital Humanities work, but we don't
know why it didn't work in our parts of the Universe.  Like
today, the AIs back then couldn't offer explanations of their
reasoning.

Best regards,

Tim


> On 13 Jul 2021, at 09:20, Humanist  wrote:
>
>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 136.
>        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
>                               Hosted by DH-Cologne
>                       www.dhhumanist.org
>                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org
>
>
>
>
>        Date: 2021-07-13 06:59:22+00:00
>        From: Willard McCarty 
>        Subject: a particular kind of science fiction
>
> I'm looking for a few examples of a particular kind of science fiction
> or imaginative speculation that contributes substantially, in an
> informed way, to our thinking on an artificial intelligence of value to
> research in the human sciences. I'd be very grateful for any suggestions.
>
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty,
> Professor emeritus, King's College London;
> Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews;  Humanist
> www.mccarty.org.uk

--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: 2021-07-13 12:08:30+00:00
        From: Henry Schaffer 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.136: informed sci-fi on AI?

I'll nominate the I, Robot series by Isaac Asimov.

--henry




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