Essay on An Approach on Machine Inteligence

Submitted By ktl789
Words: 1106
Pages: 5

An Approach on Machine Intelligence

Science fiction is a perceptual gateway, allowing us to view extreme contexts in a familiar medium. Perhaps the most overlooked application of this is machine intelligence, something that could become a very real issue soon enough. With fields such as cybernetics and artificial intelligence making leaps and bounds as never seen before, I am sure we can both agree that it is time to consider these new possibilities. Possibilities which only become an ethical dilemma due to a lack of perception within our society as a whole. Let us expand these possibilities now by looking at three short stories: Rossum’s Universal Robots, Nekropolis, and The Girl Who Was Plugged In. Karel Capek’s Rossum’s Universal Robots presents the most fundamental, and frequently visited, scenario for machine intelligence; that is to say, a situation where intelligent machines are mass produced to replace the laborers of society. But what does it mean to be intelligent? This is a very gray area, and if there was a concise answer for this then there would be little use writing this paper. In the context of Capek’s story I think we can agree the machines have some level of intelligence such that they seem to act very human like. They maintain enough autonomy to fill a complex societal niche, but also have enough awareness where such things like ‘attacks’ occur between them and humans due to their situation. So what happens when you give the equivalent of slaves more and more perceptual freedom? Well after the introduction of pain to the robot populace we see the same thing that has happened time and time again in our own history; rebellion. Any ‘intelligent’ group of people oppressed beyond reason has always rebelled. It shows immense value of self-awareness, a key quality of intelligence, for these robots to seek freedom from such tyranny. But all of this could be argued as pre-programmed traits inherit in these beings. Well the same could be argued of our physiological responses to life-threatening events. What really gives the robots’ decision to rebel weight is in their sparing of a single man, Alquist, a worker just like them. This being an act of pure sympathy, which is an altruistic trait only shown by intelligent creatures. Ultimately Capek’s story shows us the most predictable of outcomes from, for some, the most surprising of places. While the approach to machine intelligence has frequently been ‘how human are they?’ I feel that this is the downfall in many people’s argument against machine intelligence. Perhaps best supported by Freud’s ‘uncanny valley’, we see a clear discomfort with near-human machines until they become nearly indistinguishable from humans. This dilemma is well presented in Maureen McHugh’s Nekropolis. We view Hariba, having sold herself into slavery she encounters the biological construct Akhmim. Her initial thoughts are the cliché often shared among people that “AI should not be made in the image of humanity” (Masri, 387). Initially slow to accept Akhmim as a person Hariba addresses the implications of Akhmim’s existence. She eventually comes to terms with Akhmim’s humanity solely based on his actions which is summarized when she says “And I know, seeing his face, that he really is human. Because his problem is a very human problem. Safety or freedom.” (Marsi, 391). Hariba’s conclusion about Ahkmim shows the fundamental flaw we see with the uncanny valley and most people’s approach to sentient machines. Intelligence does not lie solely with the accumulation of human qualities, but with the human like qualities of self-awareness, autonomy, and the decisions revolving around these two abilities. The result of this circumstance repeats the outcome of Rossum’s Universal Robots; rebellion. Once again, oppressing any ‘intelligent’ being will cause a resistance to this oppression. While it is easy to advocate either for or against machine intelligence if we want to give weight to this