General Programming / Philosophical Question?

Hello, this may be more of a philosophical question rather than a programming one, but I just began the Code Foundations Pathway and I came across this image:

I think it sums up the strengths and weaknesses of humans and machines pretty well, but I have a question on the second point.

  • What does the image mean when it says computers only have a limited hard-wired knowledge?

  • And what about how humans communicate through inference, what does that mean?


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Your post reminded me of the Turing Test. Created by Alan Turing it aims to let a person test to see if they are talking to AI or another human. If you haven’t seen it Google it it seems to fit in this discussion.

You can loosely think of communication through inference as deductions we make through observation. We act and behave in ways in which we expect others to also make inferences based on context.

Limited hard-wired knowledge is basically the machine’s ability to take in new types of information by itself. For example, if a computer observes a box, can it learn by itself that it’s a shoebox, without any outside help?

In more recent advances of AI, programmers set neural networks to work out problems within closed systems (like chess or go). Without telling the computer what is good or bad strategy (only the rules), the neural network can figure out what is good and bad over time (by playing itself many many times). The limitation is still that it is a closed system, so any observations it makes can be reliably built up.

A quantum computer can play a million games of chess at the same time and win most or all of them. It can do that while it is playing a million games of Go, and winning them, too. If only life were so simple.

We can only spell out the same rules we gave to I-Robot. Not even the Ten Commandments have any bearing. Just those simple rules. But even in well imagined fiction the computer could never feel. The seven emotions are completely foreign to a computer.

A million children could have the first six years of their lives simulated in a millionth of a second and it would still not amount to a hill of beans to a computer. The only thing the computer will give us is statistical analysis of how many become bankers and how many become clerks.

Tell a computer their grandmother just died. Stop yourself from crying while you do it so as not to bias its response.