Intelligence, Artificial and Otherwise
I rise now to speak with the assumption that all of you know very well what I am going to say. I am the humanist here, the professor of English. We humanists, when asked to speak on questions of science and technology, are notorious for offering an embarrassed and ignorant respect toward those matters, a respect, however, which can all too quickly degenerate into insolent condescension. Face to face with the reality of computer technology, say, or with "artificial intelligence," we humanists are the kind of soreheads who compulsively point out that human beings aren't machines, that computers will never possess the uniquely human powers of intuition and common sense, and that we smelly, hairy and other wise organic people are simply more interesting, more clever and more mysterious than electricpowered, binary-formatted, digital computers with their tidy little green phosphorescent screens. So now you know what I'm going to say, or at least part of it. For, to be even more candid with you this morning, I want to go on to say that while I do believe many of the things that we humanists are reputed to believe, I also happen to believe that humanists are wrong, and very foolish, to fear computers. But they are also wrong, to underestimate the power of those computers and their important utility in the world that is now ours and the word that we will soon be turning over to our descendents.
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