Historically, if we encountered something
that moved toward us, or did much
at all, it was safe to assume it was an agent. The more human-like the behavior, the more agency we were
encountering. As <!g>Brian Cantwell-Smith has noted, until recently if anything
spoke to us, we could hope to take it home for dinner. But these days anything
from our cars, to computers, or artificial intelligences might try and strike
up a conversation with us. Today robots and intelligent devices are able to
exhibit all kinds of behaviors that make them look as though they are agents, while
we can be assured that by my definition above, they are merely machines.
An example of behavior
that exposes the problem is Chess playing. This has traditionally been
associated with high human intelligence, and there's no doubt that IBM's
chess-playing system 'Deep Blue' that in 1997 beat the world champion,
Kasparov, was a magnificent technical achievement. As might have been expected,
the media reported that a brave new era of artificial intelligence had begun.
But the researchers themselves saw things differently. According
to Senior Manager, Chung-Jen Tan, "This chess project is not AI", and
Joseph Hoane, "The techniques that tried to
mimic human judgment failed miserably. We still don't know how to do
that at all."
So it would be a mistake to see Deep Blue as
performing human-like judgment, even though it can outperform human judgment
when applied to the same task. More importantly, Deep Blue is no more an agent
in the world than an everyday PC.
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| Contributed by: <!g>Adrian