Kevin Atkinson's View Points

Here are a few of my many opinions.

The Coming Storm

January 2002

Some Articles on the Matter

Some Links to other Originations

On Preserving The Contents of Web Sites

January 2002

Even though I do not read a lot of books I am very much a librarian at heart. And as a librarian I am deeply concerned about the longativity of many of the web sites out there today. I am concerned that valuable information is going to be lost because no one bothers to actually store the contents anywhere but on the web site, and that many web sites don't last all that long. A good number of them do not offer anything unique but some do.

On Society

I believe that if you made a gigantic mathematical equation modeling the complexities of society and solve it there will be only one answer and that answer is how society is evolving right now. Or in other words, it has to be this way. Their are no short cuts.

On Star Trek and Sci-Fi

September 1999

To me, the final dialog between Q and Picard in The final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation captures the very essence of what I am looking for in science fiction:

Q: The trial never ends. We wanted to see if you had the ability to expand your mind and your horizons. And for one brief moment, you did.
Picard: When I realized the paradox.
Q: Exactly. For that one fraction of a second you were open to options you had never considered. That is the exploration that awaits you not mapping stars and studying nebulae but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.
Picard: Q, what is it that you're trying to tell me?
Q: You'll find out. In any case, I'll be watching. And if you're very lucky I'll come by and say hello from time to time. See you... Out there.

Unfortunately, I have yet to see any good new science function series that does this. I think Babylon 5 tells a very good story but it is not really what I was looking for. I think Farscape has potential, but it is to early to tell. I somehow completely missed Earth 2 when it first aired however I am watching it now on the Sci-Fi channel. I think Earth 2 is a very original serious, unfortunately it was canceled after the first session.

In the future I plan on writing an essay of what really made Star Trek: The Next Generation special, and another one explaining why I never really cared for Babylon 5.

On A.I. Related Issues

October 2001

One of my A.I. homeworks asked me to write about some Philosophy of AI issues. Since I tend to think about these issues a lot I thought I would share my responses. Enjoy.

John Searle's Chinese Room argument essentially boils down to this: a symbol processing system is insufficient to represent "true" intelligence. He uses a "reductio ad absurdum" argument to analogize an AI system to a room containing a non-Chinese-speaking person who is answering questions in Chinese by manipulating symbol tables with no understanding of the content of these tables. (Effectively, the person in the room is running the program, by acting as the CPU, with pieces of paper as the "memory" of the CPU.) Searle claims that it is absurd to believe that the peson -- or the whole system -- "understands" Chinese.

Do you agree, disagree, or partially agree with Searle's assertion?

While I believe there may be some truth to his basic assertion that a symbol processing system is insufficient to represent "true" intelligence, I do not buy his argument at all. In order for me to me convinced that a symbol system is not sufficient to represent "true" intelligence I would need to know what exactly is missing. To date no one that I know have has been able to come up with this missing something. To my knowledge the best that philosophers have been able to do is to argue that symbol systems have no "sole," but not one of them has convinced me that something like a sole really exists. Even if a sole does exits there is no reason that an intelligent system needs to possess one to be intelligent. As far as I am concerned the only thing a "sole" might do for a system is to give it life, but I don't really believe that either. Therefor, unless some one, out of nowhere, magically discovers this something, I fully believe that a symbol processing system has the power to be be truly intelligent provided that it has enough processing power and domain knowledge. In fact I strongly suspect that one day us humans will invent a system that has enough processing power, logical reasoning, and domain knowledge that it will be able to do things far beyond what it was originally programmed to do. In fact the system may be so advanced that it will even be able to reproduce, something which some believe to be the very definition of life.

In general, people are not willing to accept simulations of processes as equivalent to those processes. For example, I could write a simulation of a car's engine, but you wouldn't say that that simulation actually is a car's engine. Supporters of AI seem to be claiming that a simulation of intelligence is intelligent. Do you agree with this position? Why or why not?

The only reason people do not accept simulations as the real thing is because they some how know it is a simulation. It is the same type of thing as a superstitious person, Joe, believing that this penny or this bottle cap is lucky and no other one will do. If someone else substitutes Joe's lucky penny with an identical one Joe will never know the difference. He will continue to believe that the fake lucky penny is good luck until someone tells Joe that the lucky penny is not the lucky penny. Then, for no other reason but the knowledge that Joe's lucky penny is not the lucky penny he will no longer think that it is lucky. The same type of things goes for a simulation such as the hollow decks in Star Trek or similar shows. When a person is put inside of a hollow deck with out there knolage they may go on forever with out knowing it is not real. In fact the question on what is truly real is something that philosophers are not even sure off them selfs. So far, they have not been able to produce a good argument that our very existence is not just one incredible simulation. So, if some one, say Mary, was able to create a system that simulates intelligence incredibly well that no one knows the difference than for all intents and purposes Mary's system is truly intelligent. After all if no one can tell the difference who is to say that Mary's system is a simulation? As far as the observer knows it could very well be that Mary system is real and that Bob, the consultant that Mary's system was supposedly simulation, is the simulation? Thus in my view a system that simulations intelligent is in every way intelligent, at least for the domain in the limited domain it is trying to simulate intelligence for.

On Gay People

Gay people deserve to be treated as any other human beings.

My Biases

As a Human Being I, like everyone else, have some biases. I try very hard not to let them effect my judgment, however, every now and then you will notice them. If you are one of these people don't worry about it as I will try very hard not to hold it against you.

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Copyright (C) 2003 Kevin Atkinson. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.