Strong Artificial Intelligence: Representations of the Post-Human in Ibm's Watson Computer

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A popular topic among post-human conversation is that of artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is a complex and controversial subject that has received, and is still receiving much attention among scholars. The general premise of artificial intelligence is to simulate or surpass one of the core components of human beings, intelligence. Intelligence is a defining feature that sets human beings apart from other living entities, our ability to use logic and reason far surpasses any other creatures’ in the animal kingdom. Many scientist have experimented with the boundaries of intelligence, and it could be broke down into many sub-divisions. For the purpose of this essay I will be exploring notions as well as representations of what is known as ‘Strong Artificial intelligence’. Strong artificial intelligence refers specifically to the artificial intelligence that is meant to exceed human intelligence and is associated with certain characteristics such as consciousness, self-awareness, sentience, and sapience (Steels 75-110). There is a multitude of possible representations of artificial intelligence in the world of science fiction. However, I don’t have huge repertoire of references for science fictions because my personal preferences don’t really tend to that genre. So instead I chose to analyse a representation that I am a little more familiar with, the IBM Watson computer. Watson is a complex artificial intelligence computer system capable of answering virtually any question it is presented. In this essay I would like to explore the philosophical aspects of strong artificial intelligence while addressing the spiritual dimension, inherent values, and controversial aspects of my chosen representation. In 1997, IBM developed an advance computer system named ‘Deep Blue’ that was able to defeat the world’s best chess player, Garry Kasparov (Sostek). I feel it was at around this time that the general population begun to look at computers systems differently. One question that has stuck in my head since the beginning of this class is, ‘Is it possible for an intelligent being, like humans, to create a species more intelligent that its own?’ For IBM, this seems to be one of their main goals. Although Deep Blue was a breakthrough technology that made lots of headlines, IBM produced a system that wasn’t very commercially valuable. The technological accomplishment – playing chess really well didn’t translate into a lot of profit for IBM. In the mid-nineties IBM took up a new project with high hopes of changing the way we interact with data. How can they do this? Watson is the world’s most advanced deep-question answering system. What this means is that a question can be posed in natural language (everyday human elocution), interpreted (having ‘read’ a whole bunch of information, data and documents), and answered back (precisely and factually) in natural language. So in other words, Watson is capable of understanding your question, and will deliver to you what you want in a natural flowing dialog. One thing that I find interesting is that humans rely very heavily on natural language to communicate, and that seems to be a field where computer systems struggle dramatically. David Ferrucci, the lead developer of Watson claims that this piece of technology could be regarded as the ‘Holy Grail’ of computers because of its seamless ability to converse naturally with human beings, letting us ask it questions instead of typing in keywords (Gunning, Chaudhri, and Welty 11-12). I would definitely say that using this type of system is more reliable and efficient than using a Google or Yahoo search engine because instead of pointing you a document that might contain the answer you are looking for, Watson extracts the answer for you. Another thing that I find particularly important is that Watson is not connected to the internet; it is filled with legitimate data and documentations. What this means is that not...
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