The genius extraordinaire Alan M. Turing came up with the Turing test for the question if a computer is completely human-like. Let’s just read what Wikipedia has to say about the famous test:
The Turing test is a test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950, of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. Turing proposed that a human evaluator would judge natural language conversations between a human and a machine that is designed to generate human-like responses.
Only if the human observer can be reliably fooled into believing that the computer is really a human, then the Turing Test has been passed. The computer is considered human-like intelligent then.
Has any computer program solved that test? Nope. And no one in computer science is even working on solving such an issue, as far as I know. But inversely, we as Homo sapiens fuckinguptheplanetensis have become experts at coping with computers and their issues, and have become surprisingly involved with them.
I have a file on my desktop which is named “DropOutHilary.wav”, an electronic music track by a supporter of unfortunately-not-US-president Bernie Sanders. It’s a cool piece of electronic music, but I listened to it a few times, and then wanted to delete it. But something in the file system of my computer is corrupted, and it won’t let me delete the file. The file encouraging Ms. Clinton to stop her futile efforts of becoming US president is now near permanent on my computer. This bothers me. It’s like a stain on my bathroom wall. It’s like an uprooted tree in my garden. I have googled several websites about such file system glitches, but have not found a working solution yet. The American voters have gotten rid of Ms. Clinton, I haven’t, yet. This problem which is viscerally bothering me didn’t even exist a few decades ago.
I also can tell whenever my computer is sick and does not boot up correctly. I can tell from the sounds of the hard drive that something is wrong with it. “BRRRRR….” is not good. You want a mild humming when the computer boots. But I am sure you know that.
Recently my, this, blog was hacked, so that the page would redirect to ringtone or porn ads. Quite an embarrassment! It took quite a bit of help from a very IT security competent mate, learning about php code, and effort to get rid of the hack, which kept reappearing once I had (at first only partially) removed it. The hackers had done a very clever job of establishing these bad pieces of web programming language. I really had to make an intellectual effort to counter what they had said in php.
No computer programs have yet only remotely learned to communicate like humans. But we, or at least some of us, have learned to communicate like computers really well. There are 100s of millions of people o the planet who can use at least one programming language. The Pakistani (that’s where they were based, judging from the IP addresses I saw) hacker boys knew how to alter the code of a web page so that it would continuously show ring tone or porn ads instead of the contents its meant to display. I un-did the alterations, while being careful not to delete real website code. We had an argument, basically, what this website should be displaying. “Porn!” said the Pakistanis, “Scuba diving!” I said. We had this argument not in Urdu, German or English, but in php. I am not even sure if they spoke English – php, a computer programming language, could have been the only common language between us. Even more so – I am not sure if I was even mostly interacting with a human. I am certain that a lot of such low-level hacks is automatized. I might have interacted mainly with hack-bots? I can’t even tell! Another indication that these days it’s easy to think that a human might be a computer, but not the other way around.
These Pakistanis (or their hack-algorithms) were experts in the deep psychology of computers. The whole message of the web page was a different one after they had hacked it. No computer can manipulate a human being into doing something equivalently stupid. You can’t tweak a normal person into going around and telling others to spend money on ringtones or porn. In the new “A Ghost in the Shell” movie some evildoer can turn normal garbage truck drivers into assassins, against their will. But there is nothing in reality even close to that.
Besides not being able to tweak people into doing weird stuff: You can’t even pretend to be a normal human if you are a computer in 2017. The successes of computers in beating top human performers in Go or chess are often cited as steps taken by computers towards human intelligence. But I think that this does not count at all – Go and chess are so hard because they are very un-human mathematical games, not a human activity like conversing in natural language. Any shit computer chess program can beat me, a decent hobby player somewhat out of practice, in this day & age – it’s almost a proof of not being human. I completely disagree with my friend Jon Tapson who writes that “Go has long been held up as requiring levels of human intuition“. I know few humans who even know how to play Go, and very few who are good at it. Some of them are so preoccupied with Go that they will take themselves out of the human gene pool by looking at black and white pieces on a board instead of reproducing. You want to convince me that you are human? Please suck at Go & chess! Success in logical games by computers is an amazing engineering feat, but not a step towards human-like computers. Did anyone confuse any of these Go-playing computers with a human being? Certainly not. Contemporary computers are not very good at being human or comprehending humans!
But the other way around, if you are a 21st century urban human, you probably know what a healthy computer hard drive sounds like, how a proper file system should behave, how long it should take for a GB of files to copy from one file system to the next, ect. With a little bit of extra expertise you will know how a normal, and how an infected php file for a web page look like. We have developed a skill set in understanding computer behavior which must be comparable in sophistication to the skill set for hunting fast, weary ungulates in the African Savannah possessed by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Instead of building computers which deal with us on a person-to-person-human-like-conversation level, we have learned to deal with computers on their, odd technological, hard-drive humming, computer-language level.
All the folks who either see omnicogniscent AI as The Salvation (the Singularity fan-boys) or as a threat to human existence don’t realize how computer-savvy we have become, and how little computers have needed to become human-savvy in return. They are doing useful things for us, but we are communicating with them on their terms. We have passed the inverse Turing test. Alan Turing himself would have loved to see that development, I am sure. This is not a future master-slave relationship we are entering. They have taken the place of our prey.