Technology, Semiotics and Language Essay

A Turing machine is a piece of technology that is able to perform whatever task(s) it was designed to perform with the effectiveness that a non-present human evaluator wouldn’t be able to distinguish whether it was man made or by the machine. These Turing machines have passed the ‘Turing test,’ named after British computer scientist and mathematician, Alan Turing. It was he who believed that machines act intelligently when humans cannot distinguish their actions from the behavior of humans. No doubt, there are plenty of Turing machines who match and trump my skills in a variety of disciplines, i.e. throwing a baseball or manufacturing a bed pan. By all means, these machines are free to out-perform my human behavior as they please. Besides, I don’t want to make bed pans anyway. On the other hand, would I allow a Turing machine or an intelligent agent to write this essay, even if it’s indistinguishable from my own work? How do you know that I haven’t in fact programmed an intelligent agent to write this essay for me while I sit and remove my excess earwax with a golf pencil? Not only would I not allow it, but I would argue that it’s impossible for a machine to do so.

Sure, there are plenty of technologies and artificially intelligent agents that act human. In the labs of MIT there exists a robot by the name of KISMET who possesses both hot and cold cognitive functions; hot being emotional or empathic and cold being logical inferences and problem solving. With both of those cognitive processes, it seems that robot’s can act very human-like. But, there is certainly a difference between acting humanly and thinking humanly. Joseph Weizenbaum describes human intelligence as innate and intuitive. It is symbolically synergistic with language ability. When we learn, we create new meanings through experience. In turn, we create the language to communicate those meanings through the use of symbols (alphabet characters, pictures, drawings etc). Wiezenbaum goes on to say that the way we use these symbols is meta physical. It transcends the physics of computation and information processing. Computation is not a linguistic activity. Therefore it is not a semantic or meaning-creating process, thus it cannot be considered a symbolic activity.

Furthermore, computers do not possess the innate capability to synergize experience and language. Even if it was possible for a machine to write this essay indistinguishable from my own writing, I wouldn’t allow it because a machine hasn’t created meanings through my modes of perception, therefore it hasn’t synthesized the language to properly convey my thoughts, molded by my experience.

Turing, A. M. (1950). Computer machinery and intelligence. MIND (the Journal of the MIND Association), 59, 433-60.f

Weizenbaum, J. (1976). Computer power and human reason. From judgment to calculation.San Francisco: W. H. Freeman.


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