Artificial Intelligence, Science and Science Fiction – L’Unione

Among the various topics raised by artificial intelligence, some are of particular interest, perhaps specialized, but very cross-sectional. An example of this is “transhumanism”, a mixture of technical hubris and plot from science fiction. With artificial intelligence, a sector that transcends scientific disciplines and social sentiments coagulates, with contributions that do not always coincide, above all between “hard” scientific sectors (physics, mathematics, computer programming), humanities (philosophy, sociology) and intermediate sectors such as biology and medicine.

His new bank of knowledge drawn from increasingly customized interpretations of the role and potential uses of artificial intelligence is what experts in the field call transhumanism. The starting point is ancient and rooted in the human mind: to increase the capacity of our brain to be able to absorb, metabolize and interpret as many concepts as possible, to have sharp senses that can detect the ghosts of feelings that are forbidden to us. In short, what magic potions are always looking for but this time in remarkable variety. It is not an Asterix Priest drink but sophisticated microchips that are inserted into critical areas (called axons) in our brain. There would also be a somewhat egregious variant in the faith expectation of these possibilities of cryopreservation (freezing at low temperatures) of the brain of cadavers.

The philosophers who have adopted these programs are convinced that within a few decades different parts of our brain can be repaired or replaced with artificial circuits, for example, there are already those working in primates to replace parts of the hippocampus, the small structure responsible for the formation, integration and distribution of cortical regions of different types of memory and whose damage is largely responsible for important neurodegenerative diseases. There are two sets of problems that should convince us to spend our time (and mountains of money) in other directions, for example by making us increasingly aware of what to do and what not to do with AI. The first problem is technical and the second is human. From a technical point of view, continuing in this sector with software based on machine learning, deep learning algorithms and their variants is equivalent to searching for the Philosopher’s Stone. Indeed, it is impossible to connect a very limited variable system to a complex system with billions of variations, assuming and not assuming that we can find a silicon-carbon contact system; But, even if we did find a way to make this remarkable technical leap, we could only implant a rigorous program that would do in a “zombified” and incoherent fashion what consciousness regularly does in connecting body and mind on a daily basis.

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The result, and this is where philosophers step in, is that even if we could go to extremes to replace parts of our brain, the problem that the physician and philosopher John Locke tackled nearly four hundred years ago about personal identity would emerge, given that such a brain could be downloadable ad hoc to who knows how many cute robots. In short, the “know thyself” of the Temple of Apollo so dear to Socrates would risk, if put on after such a treatment, creating a fatal short-circuit with a sinister hum within the brain which would perhaps correspond to the program of performing Monk’s Cry, a small final tribute to human ingenuity.


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