(These are excerpts from my book "Intelligence is not Artificial")
We actually don't Think
The most successful algorithms used in the 2010s to perform machine translation use statistical analysys and require virtually no linguistic knowledge. These programs simply explore thousands of translations done by human experts and calculate which is the most popular. The very programmer who creates and improves the automatic-translation system doesn't need to have any knowledge of the two languages being translated into each other: it is only a statistical game. I doubt that this is how human interpreters translate one language into
another, and i doubt that this approach will ever be able to match human-made
translations, let alone surpass it.
Donald Knuth's famous sentence that A.I. seems better at emulating "thinking" than at emulating the things we do without thinking is still true; and it contains a larger truth. The real hard problem is that we don't know how we do the vast majority of things that we do, otherwise philosophers and psychologists would not have a job. A conversation is the typical example. We do it effortlessly. We shape strategies, we construct sentences, we understand the other party's strategy and sentences, we get passionate, we get angry, we try different strategies, we throw in jokes and we quote others. Anybody can do this without any training or education. And now, by comparison, check what kind of conversation can be carried out by the most
powerful computer ever built.
Most of the things that we do by "thinking" (such as proving theorems and playing chess) can be emulated with a simple algorithm (especially if the environment
around us has been shaped by society to be highly structured and to allow only
for a very small set of moves). The things that we do without thinking cannot
be emulated with a simple algorithm, if nothing else because even we don't know
how we do them. We can't even explain how children learn in the first place.
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