IBM Project Debater

Article in the Guardian

By Kenan Malik

The article issues a plea for something that gets inside - sounds like a job for Active Structure.

"And, brilliant though the programming is, it is in these areas that Debater is weakest. It takes sentences from its library of documents and prebuilt arguments and strings them together."

The "programming" is the problem.

"What Hammond is referring to, however, is the question of meaning and meaning is central to what distinguishes the least intelligent of humans from the most intelligent of machines."

Some folk interacted with Eliza, and thought it a human, so "the least intelligent of humans" is a low bar.

"I only make sense of myself insofar as I live in, and relate to, a community of other thinking, feeling, talking beings. The translation of the mechanical brain processes that underlie thoughts into what we call meaning requires a social world and an agreed convention to make sense of that experience." 

This harks back to the Middle Ages, where no new idea could penetrate a very insular community, and dooms us to a very limited existence. How do we go on missions to distant planets (witness Galileo, Darwin, Wegener), if all we can know is mediated through a social community, which doesn't exist yet?

"Language for humans is not merely a set of symbols to manipulate, as it is for a machine. It is something that transforms our ability to participate in communities."

The author overlooks the problem that all humans have - they can only handle four pieces of information in play at once. This is the limitation that needs breaking by using a machine, and no amount of social community will do so. 

The notion of "being inside" is central to an Active Structure - a structure that can propagate states and values within itself, and extend itself. A far cry from arguments cobbled together by an algorithm with no understanding.


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