Artifical Intelligence

Episode Four – The Possible and AI


Our fourth episode discusses the concept of the “possible” and provides a brief argument for why we do not think AI is possible.

Episode Transcript

[Please note that this may not exactly match the audio. However, there should be no significant differences].

Welcome to episode four of the Metaphysics of Physics podcast. I am Ashna, your host and guide through the hallowed halls of the philosophy of science today. Thanks for tuning in!

With this show, we are fighting for a more rational world, mostly by looking through the lens of the philosophy of science.  We raise awareness of issues within the philosophy of science and present alternative and rational approaches.

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Today we are going to discuss the concept of “the possible” and some reasons why we do not think that it is reasonable to believe that AI, by which I mean computer AI, is possible.

Ok, let’s get into it.

Let’s establish the proper meaning of “possible”. I think a lot of people, including a great many in science, do not grasp what this word means. Something is not “possible” simply because one cannot think why it is not true.

“X is possible” means: “That according to the context of my knowledge, there is some evidence that X is true and none that proves that it is not”.  Note, that there may not be very much evidence that supports X, but there has to be at least a little bit.

The evidence might not be very conclusive, and the truth of X may still need to be verified.  But, at least I have established the possibility of the claim.

Let’s take an example.

Suppose that I come to understand that some organisms seem to undergo a process of evolution by natural selection.

Let us also suppose that I do not know how humans came to be.  I wonder if humans might have evolved from some other species. I have not yet established that this is possible, at this point, it is just speculation.

I then proceed to find evidence that would suggest such a thing, such as perhaps fossils or genetic evidence.  The evidence seems to suggest that man evolved from some earlier form of man-like ape.

Australopithecus africanus

There is much evidence that man evolved from other apes. Such as this Australopithecus africanus skull.

Therefore it seems possible that man evolved from an ape!  I have not simply asserted that it is so because I can imagine that it is so.  I have concluded that it might be so, on the basis of some evidence that seems to suggest this.

Am I certain of this? No, all this is not very conclusive yet.  But, I have some reason, based on evidence, to think that it might be true.  I have a *basis* for my belief that man evolved from this earlier species.

But, suppose that I simply declare that man evolved from apes.  I have no evidence of any kind to suggest that this is true. I just assert that it is so because I simply believe it to be so.

This is speculation. It is not the same as establishing that something is possible. You have no reason, based on no evidence, to believe it might be true.  One cannot base an argument solely on speculation.

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