Many people were surprised when, recently, a poem (included below) was “composed” by an AI computer in the Artificial Intelligence Lab, Computer science department, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (India).
Some people insisted that it is conscious; it has emotions; it has understanding; and it is indeed intelligent; otherwise how can it compose such a nice poem?
The answer to the above raised question can be given by Searle’s arguments: In fact, computers can compose a poem in a mechanical manner without having any understanding of the actual meaning of the poem. This puzzle is captured in a famous paradox called Searle’s Chinese Room Paradox. Searle imagines (Searle’s argument is generic, here it’s used in this specific context) that the AI computer is asked first of all to compose a poem in Chinese rather than English. He describes a thought experiment in which humans (who do not know Chinese) execute the steps of a computer program that accepts input querries in Chinese and gives out answers of the querries in Chinese. The questions and answers both of these are in Chinese whereas the humans who are simulating the computer themselves don’t understand Chinese. Searle envisages these humans laboriously moving counters in such a way so as to act out all the detailed steps that the computer would perform. All the operations of computer algorithm for this are supplied (in English) as a set of instructions for manipulating counters with Chinese symbols on them. If these (imagined) humans are asked to compose a poem in Chinese, they follow all the detailed steps that the computer would perform, and thus compose a poem in Chinese. Now it is clear that none of the humans involved in the thought experiment understand a single word of Chinese, so they will not have a faintest idea of what the poem is about, nevertheless, by correctly carrying out the series of operations (which AI computer is supposed to do), they are able to compose a poem in Chinese.
Therefore, the mere carrying out of a successful algorithm doesn’t in itself imply that any understanding has taken place. If on the basis of compositions of poem made by AI computers one insists that computer has done so by understanding power and emotions, then they must explain how, despite the fact that none of humans in the thought experiment understand Chinese, they are able to accept inputs and compose poem in the Chinese language.
The subject matter of consciousness is central to Vedanta. There it is proposed that intelligence of humans does not arise from any mechanistic process. Rather, it is arising directly from the conscious living force within the body – the soul. According to Vedantic Paradigm, even the brain is treated as non-intelligent. It is the consciousness, which uses the brain as its computing instrument, just like we use sometimes paper or calculator for computation. The interaction of the consciousness with intelligence, mind and senses is described in the Katha Upanisad (1.3.3.-4) as follows:
atmanam rathinam viddhi sariram ratham eva ca buddhim tu sarathim viddhi manah pragraham eva ca
“The individual is the passenger in the chariot of the material body, and the intelligence is the driver. Mind is the driving instrument, and the senses are the horses. The self is thus the enjoyer or the sufferer in the association of the mind and the senses.”
O son of Bharata, as the sun alone illuminates all this universe, so does the soul, one within the body, illuminate the entire body by consciousness. _____________________________________________________ The BPO Imbroglio In the beginning, it was body shopping from LOU, the Land of Uncertainties to LOO, the Land of Opportunities. The IT czars TCS and Infy, WIPRO and Sify, shipped able bodies to work under cyber daddies on offshore platforms and collect many a greenback, while native hackers sweated on archaic domains and platforms discarded. Then came the explosive bandwidth and some roadwidth along with goodies of implosive taxes and duties, and glass and aluminium facades of call centers and cyber factories. Thus grew the reverse tides of terabytes of chores to the backoffice girls and boys and a quadrillion keystrokes belted out in the byelanes of LOU at ghostly hours in gleaming towers by youthful zombies exported output at the speed of thought to the head honchos of LOO. SanJose to Chennai NewYork to NOIDA, Boston to Bangalore, Oregon to Gurgaon beat the drums of software destiny. These giant waves of outsourcing were immense job loss causing said Kerry the Heinz King triggering a debate in LOO to settle which the wise men of Washington set up a Senate sub-committee on anti-BPO chaired by an expat Indian Angelo and hired a Bangalore startup to provide the background research prop-up ! The BPO Imbroglio might turn a full cycle. Facing a mounting inflow of Caucasian minds and bodies into the swelling job market in Cyberabad, Cybalore and Cybennai, the smart Indian techie alecs may yet look overseas to the CHEAPER labour pools to outsource the imported chores back to LOO the Land Once of Opportunities !