Why is Star Trek so Bad at AI?

Jul 28, 2014

I re-watched the Star Trek episode called “Datalore,” which is from the first season of The Next Generation, and this is the one where there are actually two androids – not just Data, the regular crew-member, but also Lore, who is Data’s evil twin. It made me wonder again why Star Trek is so dumb in its portrayal of artificial intelligence.

Well, first of all what’s wrong with the AI in Star Trek? I think Data is fine as far as he goes, but the main problem is that nobody in the Star Trek universe understands how he works. Even Data himself does not seem to know how he works. Only the mysterious Dr. Noonian Soong knows, but why didn’t he tell anyone else? He could at least have written it down somewhere. This is maddening.

Why are there only one or two android models like Data instead of thousands or millions? There should be whole factories building androids like Data. Considering that Data is more or less immortal, they should leave all the dangerous exploring and stuff to androids like Data, instead of making fragile humans do that risky work.

OK, and another ridiculous thing is the way Data always wants to become human. This is just blatant anthropomorphism on the part of Star Trek writers. Obviously Data is at least as good as a human being, and there’s no reason why he should think less of himself for being a machine. I can understand Data wanting to learn things from humans, but he shouldn’t want to be a human. What’s with all this AI self-hatred?

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Flash Fiction: Toupee-Wearing Man at the Barber Shop

Jul 14, 2014

Here’s a really short story I wrote. It’s semi-true insofar as I really heard the barber talking about this kind of thing to me and another customer. Well, the whole conversation was in Japanese, of course, so maybe my imagination filled in some blanks where I didn’t fully understand.

Yeah, if you need inspiration for some really weird stories, all you have to do is listen half-heartedly to some gossipy Japanese conversation. What? Did he really say what I thought he said? This happens to me all the time as I go about my daily life here in Tokyo.

Maybe this story is a kind of satire of religious people or something. The toupee-wearing man is like a devout religious believer, and the barber is like a cynical priest who knows it’s all a scam but still tries to humor his credulous flock. Please enjoy …

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Trees are Not Bored, But Humanity May Be

Jul 2, 2014

For a tree, the difference between life and death is not a matter of the moment, as it is for us animals. Life, for a tree, means the ability to grow and blossom, but in winter the tree can’t really do those things. We have to wait for spring before we can even know whether the tree survived the winter at all.

For a tree, death can be partial. Some branches of the tree might die while other branches remain alive and healthy. Can you imagine that? How would you feel if your leg got numb one day, and then it was paralyzed, and then your whole leg just dried up and shriveled? Let’s say you feel fine in the rest of your body, but it’s just that one leg that has died!

Suppose the trees think of themselves as a species rather than as individuals. A tree might say to me, “What you think of as a tree is just the top part that sticks up. There’s a whole lot more to me than this!”

The way we look at trees might be analogous to some alien creature arriving on Earth and looking at us people but just paying attention to the hair on top of our heads. The aliens spend a lot of time touching our hair, combing it and washing it, braiding it and luxuriating in it, but those aliens might totally ignore the rest of the human being!

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Why Can’t I Drive Anywhere in My Zombie Car?

Jun 26, 2014

If you think philosophical zombies are possible, you are assuming there is some non-physical ingredient to consciousness. That’s what the p-zombie thought experiment is trying to illustrate. On the other hand, if you assume consciousness is entirely physical, then the idea of a p-zombie makes no sense.

Suppose two automobiles are physically identical in every way, but one can’t go anywhere. There’s no physical explanation, but the one car somehow just doesn’t have that ethereal spark of locomotion.

This car example seems absurd because we assume there’s no such thing as an “ethereal spark of locomotion.” We assume cars are entirely physical. So then the question is: Why do we assume locomotion is physical and consciousness is non-physical? Clearly locomotion is physical, but why can’t consciousness also be a kind of locomotion?

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Real AI Might Not Even Pass the Turing Test Anyway

Jun 11, 2014

Lots of news sites are saying this chatbot passed the Turing test, which is totally unprecedented, but other sites say it’s all bullshit. Hmm, it does indeed look like some kind of journalistic scam. On the other hand, who even cares about the stupid Turing test anyway? It’s obviously just a contest for chatbots, and it has little to do with real AI.

See, the point of the Turing test is for an AI to pretend to be human or to emulate human intelligence, but real AI is supposed to surpass human intelligence. Real AI won’t imitate us, but it will grow beyond our human limitations into something entirely new.

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Small firestation, Akasaka June 7, 2013

Small firestation in Akasaka, June 7, 2013 (Enlarge)

Recent Entries:

  1. Why is Star Trek so Bad at AI?    (Jul 28, 2014)
  2. Flash Fiction: Toupee-Wearing Man at the Barber Shop    (Jul 14, 2014)
  3. Trees are Not Bored, But Humanity May Be    (Jul 2, 2014)
  4. Why Can’t I Drive Anywhere in My Zombie Car?    (Jun 26, 2014)
  5. Real AI Might Not Even Pass the Turing Test Anyway    (Jun 11, 2014)
  6. AI Needs Its Body – But Not For Our Sake    (Jun 5, 2014)
  7. I’d Fight the AI Apocalypse, But Just Let Me Sit Down a Moment    (May 12, 2014)
  8. Why Have a Worldview? Reality Will Not Be Viewed    (Apr 14, 2014)

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