How Intelligent is Artificial Intelligence?

By | 27th September 2023

Today’s moral panic is about AI and machine learning. Governments around the world are hastening to adopt positions and regulate what they are told is a potentially existential threat to humanity – and certainly to a lot of middle class voters in service occupations. However, it is notable that most of the hype is coming from the industry, allied journalists and potential clients, and then being transmitted to the politicians. The computer scientists I talk to – and this is inevitably a small and potentially biased sample – are a good deal more sceptical…

What I have yet to see is any acknowledgement that the enthusiasm for AI and Large Language Models rests on a particular stance in relation to philosophy and the social sciences that has been contested since at least the beginning of the 20th century. Specifically, there is a continuing demand for models of human action and social organization that assume this is governed by rules or laws akin to those of Newtonian physics. These have consistently failed to deliver but the demand does not go away…

The fad for AI takes one side in a debate between serious people in philosophy and the sciences, social and natural, that has been conducted for the last century or so. If the limits of language are not properly understood, all we are left with is the hype of a snake oil industry trying to extract profits from naïve investors and favourable regulation from gullible politicians.

A Social Science Space blog

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