Wednesday, 23 April 2014

NESFA Collections, Vol 1, continued

Yes, Poul Anderson's "The Immortal Game" presents not only a chess game but a classic one. It also addresses the issue of artificial intelligence. A human observer of the game wonders whether the computers controlling the chess pieces are conscious and have minds. He points out that the "' arrangement is closely analogous to a human nervous system.'"
- Poul Anderson, The Collected Short Works Of Poul Anderson (Framingham, MA, 2009), p. 186.

If the feedback duplicates the processes of a nervous system, then the computers are conscious whereas, if it merely simulates a nervous system, then the computers are not conscious. However, a computer is an artifact that merely manipulates symbols according to rules whereas an artificial intelligence would be an artifact that also understood the meanings of the symbols. An unconscious mechanism can be programmed always to write "4" after "2+2=." We can do this but can also understand that two things of the same kind and another two things of that kind always add up to four of those things and also that those arbitrary symbols - 1,2,3 etc - which we recognize as Arabic numerals have no inherent meaning and could have been assigned some entirely different meanings, e.g.:

1   to be;
+   or;
1= to be not;
2   ? 

The computers in the story are programmed with the rules of chess but this would give them no knowledge of battles or of a bishop's feelings for his queen. They become active and, we gather, conscious at the beginning of each game/battle with no memory of any previous battles so they have had no opportunity to develop personal relationships.

The next story is "Backwardness," with which I am familiar, and, after that, is "Genius," which I think is unfamiliar. This gets me to nearly half way down the page-long table of contents. I am measuring it with a ruler.

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