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Humanist Archives: Sept. 9, 2021, 6:40 a.m. Humanist 35.221 - a will-o'-the-wisp

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 221.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
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        Date: 2021-09-08 18:14:13+00:00
        From: Robert Royar <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.220: a will-o'-the-wisp?

An article from last year in Humanities and Social Sciences Communications
(2020)7:10 could provide some
support for the view that A[G]I is a hype target:

Why general artificial intelligence will not be realized
Ragnar Fjelland

The modern project of creating human-like artificial intelligence (AI)
started after World War II, when it was discovered that electronic
computers are not just number-crunching machines, but can also manipulate
symbols. It is possible to pursue this goal without assuming that machine
intelligence is identical to human intelligence. This is known as weak AI.
However, many AI researcher have pursued the aim of developing artificial
intelligence that is in principle identical to human intelligence, called
strong AI. Weak AI is less ambitious than strong AI, and therefore less
controversial. However, there are important controversies related to weak
AI as well. This paper focuses on the distinction between artificial
general intelligence (AGI) and artificial narrow intelligence (ANI).

Although AGI may be classified as weak AI, it is close to strong AI because
one chief characteristics of human intelligence is its generality. Although
AGI is less ambitious than strong AI, there were critics almost from the
very beginning. One of the leading critics was the philosopher Hubert
Dreyfus, who argued that computers, who have no body, no childhood and no
cultural practice, could not acquire intelligence at all. One of Dreyfus’
main arguments was that human knowledge is partly tacit, and therefore
cannot be articulated and incorporated in a computer program. However,
today one might argue that new approaches to artificial intelligence
research have made his arguments obsolete. Deep learning and Big Data are
among the latest approaches, and advocates argue that they will be able to
realize AGI. A closer look reveals that although development of artificial
intelligence for specific purposes (ANI) has been impressive, we have not
come much closer to developing artificial general intelligence (AGI). The
article further argues that this is in principle impossible, and it revives
Hubert Dreyfus’ argument that computers are not in the world.

It includes an historical overview going back to Hubert Dreyfus.

The Introduction contains the statement, "Although AGI possesses an
essential property of human intelligence, it may still be regarded as weak
AI. It is nevertheless different from traditional weak AI, which is
restricted to specific tasks or areas. Traditional weak AI is therefore
sometimes called artificial narrow intelligence (ANI) (Shane, 2019, p. 41).

Although I will sometimes refer to strong AI, the basic distinction in this
article is between AGI and ANI. It is important to keep the two apart.
Advances in ANI are not advances in AGI." To me, this seems a good summary
of an idea implied in the Humanist conversation over the last few weeks.

On Wed, Sep 8, 2021 at 1:36 AM Humanist <> wrote:

>         Date: 2021-09-08 05:29:35+00:00
>         From: Willard McCarty <>
>         Subject: AI?
> A call for contributions to a collection of essays begins thus:
> > Artificial intelligence (AI) has garnered growing scholarly attention
> > in the communication field and beyond as AI becomes omnipresent in
> > everyday lives from search engine through voice recognition
> > technology to mobile news apps.
> Consider "... as AI becomes omnipresent in everyday lives..." What
> exactly is this 'AI'? Statements of this sort are commonplace, as if
> completely unremarkable, as if by referring to 'AI' one conjured
> something definite into existence. But what is it? Does this refer to
> the illusion of a quality of sentient beings? To a manufactured product
> that gives this illusion? To a set of implemented algorithms? Or, as I
> prefer, a question, or bundle of questions with a phenomenal referent?
> A further question of my own. Is it now a feature of digital humanities
> (if DH would claim the above) that one adopts a concept, something other
> people are talking about, then devotes one's time to chasing (a.k.a.
> studying) its 'impact', its effect on others, on society, without stopping
> to question it, to look critically into it?
> Comments?
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty,
> Professor emeritus, King's College London;
> Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews;  Humanist

               Robert Delius Royar
 Caught in the net since 1985

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