Faversham Stoa is a philosophy discussion group meeting on the 3rd Tuesday of every month from 7.30 to 9.30pm in the The Bull in Tanners Street. We cover a large range of topics. If you have an idea for a topic that you would like us to cover why not drop us a line? There's no charge for membership and everyone is welcome to drop in. Just bring your brain and some beer money!

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a strange topic riddled with criticism, contradictions and controversy and yet has very successfully solved many problems and has become embedded in all areas of life today.

The term was coined in the late 1950s and throughout the 50s and 60s in both science fiction and the media we were being promised a future in which autonomous, human-looking robots would be doing all of our drudge work: building cars and doing our housework. The much-hyped robotic future never came to fruition and so the AI industry has seen long periods in which funding to research projects were cut. On the other hand there have been great successes in the area but researchers complain that whenever an AI solution is implemented successfully it ceases to be called AI: it's just ordinary computing. They call this the AI effect.

How many of us using Google on a daily basis are aware that we are using a very sophisticated AI engine or 'bot' as the nerds like to call them? AI is all around us but once it has become part of our mundane routine it ceases to be magical and we stop calling it AI. A popular adage in the AI community is Tesler's Theorem: "AI is whatever hasn't been done yet".

However, the fundamental philosophical issue in AI is not whether machines can act intelligently, that has been demonstrated beyond doubt, but whether they can be conscious. And if we conclude they can be conscious how does that affect our view of ourselves as autonomous, self-conscious agents? Is AI a threat to our sense of Humanity?

Graham Warner brings out this distinction in his excellent essay, 'Artificial Intelligence, Artificial minds, Artificial Consciousness?' which will form the basis of our discussion and is a MUST READ!

Come along and explore AI at the Stoa (it will be a multi-media presentation as befits the topic) but leave your robots at home. They might feel a little embarrassed by the discussion!

Some on-line stuff on AI

Theories of mind and intelligence

The Turing Test

John Searle&mdashThe Chinese Room and beyond

Nick Bostrom's Simulation Argument

Fear and suspicion of Computer AI



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