Spreading the Word: Human Search for Meaning and Artificial Intelligence

Can we create a human-like artificial intelligence? It is a profoundly philosophical question before being a purely technical one. If it was just a matter of technological possibility, I suspect we would have done it already. However powerful and advanced, disembodied computation is not the sort of ‘human-like’ intelligence that we – actual living embodied people – have.

In one of her beautiful pieces on the marginalian that I share with you today, Consciousness, Artificial Intelligence, and Our Search for Meaning, Maria Popova cites, among others, neurologist Oliver Sacks: “Much of our lust for artificial intelligence stems from what Sacks calls […] “our almost irresistible desire to see ourselves as being somehow above nature, above the body” — a desire channelled throughout the long history of our damaging dualism, from Plato to Descartes to the very notion of artificial intelligence.”

Indeed, the only intelligence truly experienced by us – our own – is fundamentally embodied and continuously interacting with the environment. Whenever we think about artificial human-like intelligence, we need to remember that human experience is characterised not only by logical computations but also by our unceasing search for meaning. As Sacks put it:

From Boole, with his “Laws of Thought” in the 1850s, to the pioneers of Artificial Intelligence at the present day, there has been a persistent notion that one may have an intelligence or a language based on pure logic, without anything so messy as “meaning” being involved… This is not the case, and cannot be the case.    

Oliver Sacks
painting Banquet still life by a 17th-century painter Adriaen van Utrecht
Banquet Still Life by Adriaen van Utrecht (1664) 

Keeping up the “Spreading the Word” tradition, I hope to share an insightful and mind-broadening article, podcast episode or video every weekend. Humans have always turned and returned to storytelling to find meaning. My weekends’ “Spreading the Word” posts are an online version of sharing meaningful stories.   

keep exploring and storytelling!

P.S. Thank you for visiting me here on the humanfactor.blog! If you enjoyed this post and are interested in more philosophical content, I invite you to explore the blog, leave a comment, like, and subscribe to get notified of new posts (twice a week).

Image credit: Provider: Rijksmuseum. Providing Country: Netherlands. Public Domain (accessed on Unsplash)

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