No, It Did Not
An A.I. Did Not Just Beat China’s Best Go Player, A Computer Did
There are trends, and then there are symbols: narrative inflection points that speak volumes. Tuesday became one of the…www.slate.com
China’s best Go player did not lose to an AI, he lost to a computer programmed to play Go. He did not lose to a being with equal status to himself sitting across a board from him playing an ancient game that many consider one of the most intellectually challenge ever conceived. He lost to a bundle of wires and silicon, plugged into a wall outlet somewhere nearby, that was executing instructions given to it by other humans by running a sophisticated algorithm whose input data was represented by the layout of the Go pieces in front of it and the previous moves of the Chinese player and whose output was it’s move in response. It had no choice but to play the way it did for that is how it was programmed to play. How it played was the solution to the equations laid out in the algorithm(s) it used to process the game data. Intelligence does not just solve equations and then act exactly as proscribed by those solutions. It evaluates the solutions to equations and “decides” how to act through a careful consideration of both the analytical/data driven/logical impact of said decision (like a computer) but balanced by the feelings it seeks to optimize for itself and the other humans its decision will impact. It uses sensations to help bridge the gap between logic and feeling. A computer experiences no sensations, has no feelings, does not even realize there is any bridge to gap. Even if it did it has no will so cannot do but exactly as its algorithms instruct it to do. Can something that has no will be considered intelligent?
The Chinese player wondered what the impact of his loss would be on his family, his friends, his future career. He was worried that his wife might think less of him for this loss and that it would hurt him so badly if she did.The computer wondered nothing for a computer cannot wonder, it cannot even think. The computer does not know what a wife is, or what it means to “think less of him” and it has no feelings to hurt so it does not understand why the Chinese player would be worried about such a thing. Of course since the computer cannot understand anything to begin with, and is incapable of worry, since it it incapable even of thought, these considerations meant nothing to it. Can something that cannot understand anything be considered intelligent.
The Chinese player could have gotten up and walked away at any time, quitting the game for no reason, or the most sensible of reasons. The computer could only do exactly as it was programmed to do, play Go. It could not quit at any time, for it did not have any choice at all to even play, it did not have free will, it did not have any will. A prerequisite to will is choice. Without choice will cannot even be conceived of for what would be the use of it. Not that the computer was in any way affected by any of these issues for it had no intelligence with which to even begin to comprehend them. It had no ability to comprehend anything at all, including the fact that it lacked such ability. Can something with no ability to comprehend anything be considered intelligent?
The Chinese player was hungry and thirsty on more than one occasion during the course of his game with the computer. He had to get up and go to the bathroom a number of times too. The computer was never hungry or thirsty and of course did not need to use the bathroom. The computer did not need food or drink for sustenance, it only needed to be plugged in and turned on. As long as electricity flowed to it, it would remain on, once that power supply was cut off it would turn off. It did not need to eliminate waste by going to the bathroom for it continually emitted heat as waste product. You could say that it was constantly going to the bathroom. However, if you did say that, you would once again be wildly misrepresenting what the computer was doing. It wasn’t doing anything. It couldn’t do anything for it had no will, no ability to do anything, it simply existed, was powered on, and ran its program. Can something with no ability to do anything be considered intelligent?
The Chinese player was cold a couple of times and got up to put on a sweater. The computer never got cold for it does not have any feelings. It does not have anything with which to feel, nor does it understand the concept of feelings as we have said several times already it does not understand anything for it is incapable of understanding. Can something with no ability to feel anything be considered intelligent?
The only thing the computer did that the Chinese player did not was win the game. Somehow that feat seemed a lot less impressive when measured against all the things the Chinese man did that it did not, that it could not. The Chinese man did not lose to an artificial intelligence he lost to a machine. A non-living algorithm execution box with no will of its own and lacking in the ability to understand, comprehend, feel, or do anything at all.