Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dead Rite chapter 88.02

“A computer can't be sentient.” Peters made a noise that was almost, but not quite, blowing a raspberry. “You can't make a sentient machine. It's a contradiction in terms. Sentience is derived from an ability to reason with in turn is derived from a physical and emotional response to stimuli.”

Professor Shadwell took a step back, glancing at the computer in case it had heard the blasphemy. “But it passes the Turing test.”

“Anything can be programmed to pass the Turing test.” Peters scoffed. “We learned that in basic computer science.”

“Wait.” White held up his hands. “Gentlemen, I know you're speaking but all I can hear is a flapping contest. Would one of you care to explain what this Turing test is?”

“Sorry sir. It's a test of computer intelligence. If you can imagine a Chinese woman outside a locked door who can only speak Chinese, and on the other side of the door is an Englishman who can only speak English. He has a series of catalogued boxes filled with Chinese characters he can't understand, but a book of instructions in English. When the Chinese woman slips some Chinese characters under the door he can look them up in his book and the book will tell him which characters to send back as an appropriate response. The Chinese woman writes something down and gets a logical response, so she assumes the person behind the door understands Chinese.”

“I see.” White rubbed his chin. “And the computer is the man behind the door, I take it?”

“Yes sir. We think the computer is intelligent because we get an intelligent responese but it's only the programmer who's intelligent. We can't build a computer that's intelligent on its own.”

“Ah,” Professor Shadwell looked at the machine again. “But what if we could?”

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