Sunday, March 11, 2007

Thinking allowed

There's going to be a lot more of this sort of thing:

Rats appear capable of a complex form of thinking before known to exist only in humans and other primates — the capacity to reflect on what they do or do not know.
The problem with human understanding of the intelligence of other species is that it has been impeded by two incorrect frames of reference.

The first is religious in origin - the presumption that other species are not intelligent based on an assumption of man's unique position in the universe.

The second is anthropocentrism, as illustrated by the Turing Test for artificial intelligence:
a human judge engages in a natural language conversation with two other parties, one a human and the other a machine; if the judge cannot reliably tell which is which, then the machine is said to pass the test.
That's just a test for the effective impersonation of human psychology, and why this should be assumed to be synonymous with intelligence itself is a mystery.

Non-human intelligence will plainly not be human. Yet if the word "intelligence" is to have any meaning beyond the human, we need to be prepared to accept that other species will have differing forms of intelligence.

There has been a tendency in the past for the attribution of intelligence to non-human species to be dubbed anthropomorphic. While people have been quite willing to accept that organs like hearts perform the same functions in all species including humans, the human brain has been held to unique - for absolutely no good reason.

A more useful term might be "lithomorphism" - the attribution of the qualities of inanimate objects like rocks to creatures that are plainly living.

And of course this has profound implications for the human understanding of the ethical basis for our relationships with other species.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You may have a point there peter.

The Turing test is seriously flawed
as anyone speaking to a "customer service agent" will testify.

In these cases you are talking to a human, but they respond like a robot.

I feel they are pioneers of artificial ignorance