RE: [-empyre-] what is to be done?
It is a little-appreciated irony that Turing's mathematical model of an
all-purpose computing machine fell out of his successful efforts to solve
Hilbert's Entscheidungsproblem (literally 'decision problem'). The
fundamental object of the theory of computation--the Turing machine--was
developed in an attempt to solve a famous math problem. Turing proved that
no algorithm exists that performs the task Hilbert had asked an algorithm
for. It is ironic that the Turing machine, that abstract mathematical
machine which can do anything that any computer--now, or into the
foreseeable future--can do, was formulated by Turing in a successful effort
to show the existence of tasks for which no algorithm can ever possibly
The theory of computation was born not out of an expression of limitless
possibility for computing, but in a successful attempt to show that there
are things that no machine will ever do. Not that these are things that
humans *can* do. There is no accepted proof that there exist thought
processes of which humans are capable and computers are not.
It seems that, in the processes of computation, we do indeed have an
all-purpose machine that could eventually pass the Turing test, but there
are things that neither machines nor we, apparently, are capable of.
Machines are not going to 'outshine' humanity. They are going to help us
understand our humanity and the limits of the possible, the limits of what
is possible by humans or any other sentient being.
Already we appreciate better what it is to be human by the deep problems
that artificial intelligence has encountered. We are more subtle and complex
than we understand.
Already our notions of what it befits intrepid artists to do have changed in
light of what is possible with machines. How many of us are still in the art
of making pretty pictures? Or writing poemy poems? Or playing the blues? The
edges move. From production of the objects of art to automation of the
production, to an art of algorithms that leaves both behind as the
fundamental activity of interest. The machines follow in imitation, and the
drones continue as before. The art of algorithms, meanwhile, continues to
explore what it means to be human in these times.
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