Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: June 23, 2022, 6:12 a.m. Humanist 36.76 - artificial sentience

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 76.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
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        Date: 2022-06-22 06:49:39+00:00
        From: Robert A Amsler <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.74: artificial sentience?

We are facing a new dilemma. Everything known may be accessible online at
some point and clever software developers are devising interfaces to that
information that seem to be interactive agents capable of human-grade
fluent speech for communication with us. The dilemma is if a computer
program speaks/writes human language fluently enough how can we determine
whether we're speaking with a computer or an actual human. And, when that
program has access to all the digital text we've put online; including all
the conversations on Twitter and other social media sites, how can we know
whether it's answer to any question we ask is the product of a conscious
mind vs. a program that accesses that information and just follows the
rules of fluent communication to sound like it knows what it is saying;
including saying that it  is aware of what it has said and it saying about
being aware.

At present, I think we may be able to 'trick" such programs into saying
something that indicates they are an artifact; but I'd say reading a posted
conversation between a human and a computer can't be relied on to prove
that. You'd have to be able to ask your own questions of the program to
follow up the answers it gives with your own questions. So, proving a
program has become "conscious" of what it is saying may not be provable
from selective dialogs recorded by someone else.

My initial guess is that we will lose the ability to rely on the media
we've been creating and posting online as being "original" and "authentic"
products of human creation vs. recopied and generated information from
programs. I think courts do not allow photographs to be the basis of proof
of what is in the photos any longer. It's impossible to distinguish between
made up photos and actual photography. Sure, that's a photo of Abraham
Lincoln being shot in the theater that very night.

On Wed, Jun 22, 2022 at 2:18 AM Humanist <> wrote:

>               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 74.
>         Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
>                       Hosted by DH-Cologne
>                 Submit to:
>         Date: 2022-06-22 06:14:44+00:00
>         From: Willard McCarty <>
>         Subject: sentience
> In the context of the book I recommended recently, Ginsburg, Jablonka
> and Zeligkowski, Picturing the Mind (2022), the following will be of
> interest. I for one am inclined to back away from the high-octane
> speculations of AI, or as the author of the first article below says,
> "the AI-hype machine, which, like everything in Silicon Valley,
> oversells itself", but the questions raised by the technology need
> the attention of those who probe them. This is us, yes? So, to the
> readings:
> Stephen Marche, "Artificial consciousness is boring: The reality of AI
> is something harder to comprehend", The Atlantic (June 2022),
> <
> artificial-consciousness/661329/
> <
> >
> David Kordahl, "Exorcising a new machine", 3 Quarks Daily (23 June
> 2022),
> <
> >
> Bill Benzon, "Welcome to the Fourth Arena--The world is gifted", 3
> Quarks Daily (22 June 2022)
> <
> world-is-gifted.html
> <
> >
> Responses welcome, as always.
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty,
> Professor emeritus, King's College London;
> Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews;  Humanist

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