Are the robots we create alive?

Fragment of a discussion from User talk:Sheldor
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To me, it seems intuitively clear (read: I'm not claiming I can provide a logical proof) that humans are on the other side of an important threshold of intelligence as compared to most or all other animals on earth. And including machines in the discussion seems premature. For all we know, the ability to attain consciousness is related to the materials that form our brains and anything silicon-based is incapable of consciousness.

But even so, I agree we aren't special in any absolute sense. I don't see why chimps or dolphins couldn't evolve to cross that intelligence threshold, if it exists. And despite our remarkable ability to understand abstract concepts, I take it as a given that there are limits to our ability to understand the universe, much as a cat can never understand how a DVD player works the way that we can.

Voidious18:55, 1 March 2013

I thought dolphins and mice already had become intelligent. :)

I didn't say that machines were conscious, only that they are very quickly becoming much better at using mathematics and may soon be better than humans at STEM related tasks.

Sheldor20:38, 1 March 2013

I meant crossing the intelligence threshold that humans have crossed, not just having any degree of intelligence. I'm not sure how to clearly define it. But I think mice would have trouble understanding this discussion. :-) Understanding theory of mind is one important threshold. I think humans have crossed another important threshold (or more than one) in terms of understanding abstract concepts, even compared to chimps and dolphins.

Also I think consciousness is very relevant to claiming machines are "using mathematics". Unless the machine itself becomes conscious, we are using machines to do mathematics. The machine is just a physical structure and reaction, like a crystal lattice. You wouldn't claim a crystal lattice is intelligent or using math, just because we can use math to describe interesting aspects of its structure, would you?

Voidious20:49, 1 March 2013

I don't think you understood the joke. It was a vague reference to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Your point about machines not being aware that they are using math reminds me of the Chinese room. Do you agree with it?

Sheldor22:05, 1 March 2013

I'll get back to you regarding the Chinese room once I have done more research on it, but I want to return to the discussion of classification of trees and humans again. You can distinguish between trees and humans based on their appearance. Do all trees share something that makes them trees?(Aristotelian form.) Do you have an understanding of what a tree is?

When I say human I mean a rational, sentient, living, material, substance. I'm not a materialist (as I said before, I follow the Scholastic school of thought), but you can't successfully argue against my stance by saying that you have a different idea (which is immaterial) of what a human is. I'm not asking what you think I think a human is, I'm asking what you think a human is.

"I don't believe Homo Sapiens are really that special when compared to other animals. We are not the only creatures that have developed tools or language. We are not the only creatures to feel emotions or pain, or to be "aware" of our surroundings. Insect societies are funduamentally not too far different from ours. Dogs and pigs are more intelligent than human infants. Butterflies see the world in colors we can't even imagine. "

You're completely missing the point. I'm saying that we aren't distinguished from other animals based on these things, so what do you use to distinguish us?

As regards STEM, I'm not an artistic person and I'm not saying art is more IMPORTANT than other things, but it seems to be a difference between humans and other animals. Can you explain why we have art museums and no other animal does?

AW15:42, 5 March 2013

We are distinguished by biological differences.

Art is a refined extension of beauty. In addition to merely noticing beauty, we create it. Beauty is simply an evolutionary adaptation that makes us seek symmetry and harmony. Other animals can perceive beauty, but only humans have the resources to make art and build museums around it.

Sheldor22:09, 7 March 2013