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Health & Balance

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Artificial Intelligence, Real Issue

Smart Box or Real Boy?

I Think Therefore I Am? continued...

Frank Sudia, JD, has slightly different criteria. He says the ability to make and act on one or more choices out of multiple options, and the ability to decide which of thousands of possibilities is the best one to use in an unforeseen situation, may be a basic, working definition of what it means to "be."

"If the machine has the power of self-production -- if it can seek its own goals or even pick its own goals from some list of goals it reads about in the newspaper [and decides], 'Oh, I want to look like Madonna,' -- I think that this ability to choose, guided however it might be, is indistinguishable from what we consider to be our sense of self," he tells WebMD.

Sudia is a San Francisco-based e-commerce security consultant and self-described ethicist, scientist, and thinker about intelligent systems. He likens the role of the artificial-intelligence systems designer or robot-maker to that of the parent of an adolescent.

"The teenager starts to have a good variety of responses [but] not a really great restraint system," he says. "You're trying to form their character in such a way that they will make reasonable choices that will be socially beneficial for them. So you play God to an enormous extent with your children. Forget about forming them into Mozart -- you try form them into something that can survive by getting them to have a self."

I Make Choices, Therefore I Am?

The ability to make choices alone does not suggest autonomy, Bostrom points out. The computer Deep Blue defeated chess grand master Gary Kasparov. It can choose from among millions of possible chess moves in a given situation, but just try sending it across the street to buy a quart of milk.

"In order to grant autonomy to a human, we require quite a lot of them," Bostrom says. "Children don't have the full range of autonomy, although they can do more than choose chess moves or make simple choices like that. It requires a conception of their well-being and a life plan and that kind of thing. I don't think any machine that exists on earth today would have either sentience or autonomy."

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