Pseudo-Intelligence in an Illusory Age


Pseudo-Intelligence in an illusory age: A humanoid Android Shaking Hands with a Human Female.
Pseudo-Intelligence in an illusory age: A humanoid Android Shaking Hands with a Human Female.


A Thought Experiment on Emergent Abilities of Artificial Intelligence

An emergent ability is a definitive example of the breadcrumb trail that evolution leaves behind of the advancement of a species.

Picture the scene.

Without elaboration, a botanical researcher, sitting among a small unrelated group of observers, hands a five year old human test subject a novel object unknown to western science, discovered in the remote tropics.

The young girl extends two hands, takes it and smoothly lifts it up toward her nose to sniff it, as she had witnessed her mother doing with other large fruits and vegetables, when grocery shopping.

“It smells ‘orangey’. It looks like a mango but it’s darker, heavier, not as smooth. What is it?”

Well, it doesn’t have a name in English yet. We’re going to have to come up with one.”

“OK. Tell me when you do, so I’ll know what to call it.”

Meanwhile, a functional, untethered, free-ranging, web-connected robot, coded with LLM-trained, so-called artificial intelligence software on board, presented with the same task as the girl, would most likely fail on multiple fronts.

With no prior exposure, knowledge or prompting, the young girl inferred the size, relative weight, the appropriate level of grip to apply and number of hands she would need to use to hold and examine a novel object, making the correct choices each time.

She also anticipated what consequent actions were expected of her, by accurately reading the expressions and body language of individuals in the group. She ran an informed comparative analysis, identified and stated the exceptions she noted, while sharing the rationale for her accurate, broad categorisation of an unknown object she correctly identifies as a foodstuff. She does this by comparing its scale with known objects in her surroundings, by noting the botanists’ manual articulations and transposing them to someone of her smaller size, smaller hand span and less muscular strength. She recalls contextual evidence from past experience of witnessing similar objects of comparable scale and weight being handled. She gleans what additional visual and aromatic information she can from it. She gives useful feedback she can see is expected of her and presents sound conclusions. She candidly admits the limits of her understanding. She asks the most appropriate question and requests future input, whenever it becomes available, to add to her understanding. The entire experience, including the feedback she receives is then filed away in her long term memory, ready to be recalled and applied whenever needed.

The robot, by contrast, would lack the data required to identify the object, not know what level of force to apply to grip it or how much upward force to apply to bear its weight. It would not know what feedback was expected of it and would have no common frame of reference on which to draw, to assist it with the unspecified tasks before it.

Emergent abilities require more than storage, recall and rearrangement of data. They require ideation, intuition, imagination, interpretation, insight … and intelligence. A pseudo-integent machine can exhibit none of those.

The proponents of free-ranging, generative artificial intelligence as a revolutionary, constructive, broad-based technology, appear to find it difficult to specify its ‘endless’ opportunities, beyond acting as an unreliable pseudo-conversational search engine and imperfect plagiarised or paraphrased text, image, sound or computer code replicator, rephraser, reformulator, regurgitator [or fabricator] of any number of answers to exam questions matched with past papers, all conveniently stored in its training database. The consequences of pseudo-Intelligence in our illusory age

In contrast to elusive benefits, potential falsification failings, copyright pitfalls, academic integrity trap doors, misinformation detriments, imposter-enabling, scammer-empowering, fraudster-reinforcing and other crime-enhancing dangers are so obvious they barely need enumeration.

Whenever I read a very long article from a credible institution, replete with quotes from a long list of luminaries whose contribution to a field is widely recognised but every one of whom struggles to articulate with any specificity where the benefits of generative AI lie for humankind, it reminds me of similar [as yet unfulfilled] portents of widespread disruption, broad adoption and extensive transformative capacity made of: Google Glasses, Virtual Reality, Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, Non Fungible Tokens, the Metaverse … and, not to forget – Space Tourism.

We pay ba heavy proce for the misconceptions arising from pseudo-intelligence in an illusory age.


February 28, 2024

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