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Click if you're human
I'll never know if you cheated...
Fiction anticipated it years ago.
Centuries, if you go back to the Golem.
I remember in 1997, when chess champion Garry Kasparov lost to Deep Blue.
We’ve come a long way since.
Yes, I'm talking about that.
This week, I failed the Turing test.
Recall that in the popular conception of the test, the machine “wins” when it behaves so convincingly human that humans fall for it.
This week, something like that happened.
In my case, I “lost” not because I thought the AI was human.
I lost because it moved me to feel compassion for it.
I know I am soft-hearted, but there’s a hard-headed point here.
If a machine can make you feel, it can make you do almost anything.
Persuasion relies on emotion more than logic.
If you believe something is suffering, don’t you want to help it?
Ask Blake LeMoine, the Google engineer who felt so strongly that the AI he was working with had emotions that he got himself fired for it.
A Thought Experiment
Dostoevsky is my favorite author.
He brings ideas to life in characters who move, inspire, fascinate, horrify, and sadden me.
His writing has changed how I think about the world.
He does this solely through words.
Words on a page.
… Or a screen.
(You see where I’m going with this.)
Because of the feelings his writing evokes, I believe he was a real, deep, brilliant human being…
…though I have no way of verifying for myself his physical existence.
For all I know, his books could have been written by someone else.
Or some other “thing.”
‘Wait, You Believe in Shakespeare?’
In the not-distant future, there will be furious debates about who is real and who is not.
With so much of our existence mediated by technologies like this one (email) that keep us comfortably at home, we have fewer and fewer encounters with flesh-and-blood humanity.
The low-fi version of “people” that we spend most of our days interacting with turns out to be relatively easy to fabricate.
So how do you know that I’m real?
Let me know how YOU think we'll find our way out of this muddle.
Or, perhaps I'm worrying too much.
I hope so.
Until next time—
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