A Sentient Computer? I Think Not…

Some readers might have seen a version of this story that appeared in the Washington Post last weekend about a Google AI program called LaMDA that one of its creators claimed was sentient and “conscious.” Here is the CNN version of that story, “No, Google’s AI Is Not Sentient.” Even the description of what it can do makes it clear this machine is just operating a sophisticated version of John Searle’s Chinese Box example. See Robert Kuhn’s interview here with Searle on his amazing program Closer to Truth-which, by the way is now being uploaded to Youtube. And for dozens of other programs exploring these fundamental questions do the search on the Closer to Truth web site for the “Mind Body Problem.”

I am a historian of ancient Mediterranean/Ancient Near Eastern religions so my comment here is stictly “outside my field,” as the saying goes. I have to agree with Roger Penrose, this idea that intelligent and consciousness—not to mention self-consciousness—is based on this kind of a computational model of complex data association is a basic category mistake, see his enlightening interview with Lex Fridman, “Consciousness is Not a Computation.”
I don’t think one needs to move to some “wholly other” force and call it “Mind,” as if naming a phenomenon conveys understanding it. I am quite sure our self-conscious minds are rooted in “this” world—I remain a Monist in that Whiteheadean sense, but our reductionistic assumption that the “material” is just STUFF…in contrast to some “spiritual” other—is just wrong headed. As if naming Gravity, Light, and the Strong and Weak Nuclear forces somehow means we have understood them and made them part of some so-called “material” aspect of the cosmos. The problem here, as I see it, is the very assumptions that are built into our dualistic categorization that seems to be built into our language anytime we discuss the so-called “spiritual.”

I Was There! 70 Years to the Day…

I usually use this personal blog for historical, philosophical, and artistic ruminations. But today is different.
This day, June 2, 1952, marks the 70th Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth–the longest reigning monarch in English history. My two sister and I were there in London for the Coronation Day! My father was a USAF military officer stationed in Buttonwood AFB–near St. Helens–where we lived. It was in the Liverpool area–so Ringo (1940), John (1940), Paul (1942), and George (1943) were maybe already playing around with their instruments–and who knows–might have made the trek to London as so many millions of citizens did. I have only vague memories–do the math and you can figure out my age (b. 1946).
I have vague memories of that day. I know my father hoisted me up on his shoulders–taking turns with my younger sister. We were on the procession route–with the countless throngs waving flags and cheering. I got a toy Buckingham Place guard–the one with the black fur hat! I loved it so much. My sisters got golden plated metal models of the royal carriage. And we all got a five shilling piece–I still have mine–minted especially for the Coronation.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo from that day–I think we might have home movie Super 8 footage somewhere–I need to check. My father was avidly into filming everything we did–as many of you will remember who grew up in the 1950s! But today I am thinking of 70 years past–in my own life, and that amazing beginning I had growing up in England those early years (1950-1954). I did find a picture of the house we rented in St. Helens and another of us in the driveway of that house around that time. I will leave it to you all to see if you can spot which boy is Jimmy Dan Tabor. Perhaps someone out there will recognize the house. I also remember, for you trivia old folk, Dad had a 1949 Convertible Studebaker. I would like to go back someday and find that house. I had endless adventures in that house–you can imagine, remembering back when you were ages. I love that house–the endless rooms, closets, and even the attic and courtyard. Talk about letting your imagination run wild.
Anyway, I wanted to share this bit of personal trivia with you all