Voices in AI – Episode 112: A Conversation with David Weinberger

Voices in AI – Episode 112: A Conversation with David Weinberger


About this Episode

On Episode 112 of Voices in AI, Byron speaks with fellow creator and technologist David Weinberger concerning the nature of intelligence synthetic, and in any other case.

Listen to this episode or learn the total transcript at

Transcript Excerpt

Byron Reese: This is Voices in AI, dropped at you by GigaOm, and I’m Byron Reese. Today my visitor is David Weinberger. He is the man that likes to discover the consequences of know-how on concepts. He’s a senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, and was co-director of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab and a Journalism Fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center. Dr. Weinberger has been a advertising VP and adviser to excessive tech corporations, an adviser to presidential campaigns and a Franklin Fellow on the US State Department. Welcome to the present, Dr. Weinberger.

David Weinberger: Hi Byron.

So, when did you first hear about AI?

Well about AI…

Well was it 1956?

That’s what I’m pondering.

But you have been solely six then. So I’m guessing it wasn’t then.

Well as quickly as the primary science fiction robotic motion pictures got here out, that’s most likely once I heard about it. Robby the Robot, I feel.

There you go. And so I don’t know if we known as it that colloquially then, however in any case, how do you outline it? In reality, let me slender that query a bit. How do you outline intelligence?

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Oh jeez, I critically attempt to not outline it.

But don’t you assume that’s attention-grabbing that there’s no consensus definition for it? Could you argue due to this fact that it doesn’t actually exist? Like if no one may even agree on what it’s, how can we are saying it’s one thing that’s a helpful idea in any respect?

Well I don’t need to measure whether or not issues exist by whether or not our ideas for them are clear, since most of our ideas are finally, once you take a look at them lengthy sufficient, — they’re not clear. Words have makes use of. We appear to have a use for the phrase ‘intelligence’ as clever versus one thing else. It’s normally actually helpful to consider the context through which you employ that phrase or one other one. And regardless that we’re not [doing so], outline ‘life,’ proper? It’s a fairly helpful time period particularly once you’re speaking about whether or not one thing is alive or useless. You know you don’t have to have the ability to outline life exactly for that time period to be helpful. Same factor with intelligence, and I feel it may well typically be a mistake to attempt to outline issues too exactly.

Well let me ask a barely completely different query then. Do you assume synthetic intelligence is synthetic as a result of we made it? Or is it synthetic as a result of it’s probably not intelligence, like synthetic turf? It’s probably not grass. It’s simply one thing that may mimic intelligence, or is there a distinction?

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So it’s a very good query. I might say I feel it’s synthetic in each methods and there’s a distinction.

Well inform me what the distinction is. How is it solely mimicking intelligence, but it surely isn’t truly clever itself?

Well you’re gonna be actually indignant at me. It relies upon the way you outline intelligence. To me that’s not the burning query at this level. And I’m unsure if or when it ever could be. Generally we ask about whether or not machines are clever in kind of on a regular basis dialog. Insofar as this, we’re speaking in on a regular basis dialog concerning the kind of factor, but it surely’s as a result of we’re involved about whether or not we have to deal with this stuff in a method that we deal with different human beings, that’s, as creatures that we care about what occurs to them finally. Or we need to know are they doing stuff that we do cognitively that’s sufficiently superior that we’re interested in whether or not a machine is doing it. We don’t name an abacus clever regardless that we use it for counting. We’re a bit extra tempted to fret about whether or not machines are clever after we can’t see how they work.

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And I feel you hit the nail on the top along with your remark about [how] ultimately we need to know whether or not we now have to deal with them as in the event that they’re sentient within the true sense of the phrase, in a position to sense issues, in a position to really feel issues, in a position to really feel ache. How do you assume we’d know that? If they’d a ‘self’ that would expertise the world because it have been?

So we might get very confused about it. I’m already fairly confused about it. I imply I’ll inform you why my suspicion is that they can’t be clever within the sense through which they’ve an internal life. I discover that kind of philosophically objectionable, regardless that I simply introduced it up, or whether or not they care about what occurs to them. This shouldn’t be my argument. I don’t bear in mind whose it’s although.

Listen to this episode or learn the total transcript at


Byron explores points round synthetic intelligence and acutely aware computer systems in his new e book The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity.


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