Non-Computable You: What you do that artificial intelligence never will, by Robert J. Marks ★★★★
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a hot topic in the news and on the internet. This has been true for at least the last 50 years. Now, with more powerful computer systems and the development of more sophisticated algorithms that allow for incrementally more powerful programs which feign the appearance of being a sentient machine, the question about the capabilities of AI has become a more serious consideration. As a leading developer of “intelligent” systems, Robert Marks quickly puts to rest any notion that machines could actually think. Simply stated, machines will only be able to process algorithmic instructions, which thus excludes the ability of the machine to show creativity, ingenuity, or thinking “outside of the box”. Thus, the sci-fi fears of Terminator-style robots taking rule over humans should remain within the realm of fiction.
Marks does a masterful job of showing how computers will never be able to compete with humans on the thinking tasks that matter most. After quickly putting to rest notions that AI will someday become creative, he offers 12 filters to quell the hype of the AI movement; actually, these 12 filters apply to much of life and to discerning truth from fiction. There follows a section where he discusses the history of AI, which was both informative as well as enjoyable to read. Next, a section follows that explores the thinking of Gödel, Turing, and Chaitin, which is relevant in grasping the more theoretical aspects of thinking through AI, though sometimes a bit muddy. The discussion of the Halting Oracle, or of elegant systems was intriguing but not something I would challenge my mind with, even on a rainy day. I felt that the Marks Tax Collector example had faulty logic that produced an impossible answer.
The ethics of AI was most intriguing to me, and I’m thankful that there are those that are asking these questions. If an AI machine makes an “error” (such as an automatic guidance automobile that hits and kills a pedestrian), who is to blame? The human mind shows a vastly greater ability to manage ambiguous situations than any algorithmic device would ever possess. Thus, caution in the excess use of AI must be exercised. We probably won’t be seeing robots taking over the world and achieving independence from man, but it would be expected that other sorts of challenges will arise when AI becomes more commonplace in society.
This text has brought back to mind a book I read many years ago, and which I hope Marks has read, called Technopoly by Neal Postman. Postman describes how technology is used to solve problems that man has asked, such as, how can I travel somewhere faster than present, or, how could I communicate with someone on the other side of the planet. With technopoly, technology is now used to create solutions where there is no problem. Postman offers multiple examples in his book. Perhaps AI has migrated from simply being a technological tool to a technopoly issue that provides solutions to issues that are not a problem. Perhaps.
This book was a delightful read, and very thought-provoking. For those curious about where AI might be headed, this would be the book of choice for exploring those curiosities.