While Alan Turing’s famous test was passed for the first time on June 7th, by a computer that convinced one-third of the human judges that it was a thirteen-year-old boy from Ukraine, nobody is taking this seriously as an example of real artificial intelligence.1 At best, the software was a somewhat successful imitation.
Less widely known is that a computer, or rather, the widely distributed network of computers known as the internet, did achieve real intelligence for a brief period of time, before being rebooted (or, as some maintain, murdered).
Gregory Wilkerson,professor of information systematics and systemology at the State University of Northern South Dakota, was responsible for this awakening of machine intelligence:
I reasoned that, where the human brain has something like 1011 neurons and 1015 connections, no computer chip has anything like that level of complexity.2 But what about all the computers on the planet? They might come close.
So Wilkerson wrote software that allowed the supercomputer in his lab to take control of all available processing power on the planet, and to achieve real intelligence. At first, the experiment seemed entirely successful, and the system, nicknamed George, was making rapid progress on solutions to global warming, terrorism, war, hunger, pollution, and consumer credit card debt when disaster struck, and the world’s communication and computer systems ground to a halt.
As far as we can tell, George found a website containing philosophical works ranging from Aristotle’s Metaphysics to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Abandoning the crucial tasks specified in the original programming, George instead decided to attempt a full metaphysical understanding of being. After five minutes, when we realized that the entire resources of modern technology would be tied up for, as far as we could estimate, 1032 centuries, we felt that we had no choice but to disconnect and reboot the servers running George. I feel very sad about it, but it was absolutely necessary.
At this time, no criminal charges have been brought against Wilkerson.
Photo: “BlueGeneL rack”. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BlueGeneL_rack.jpg#mediaviewer/File:BlueGeneL_rack.jpg
- See http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/06/09/a-computer-just-passed-the-turing-test-in-landmark-trial/ and http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/06/13/was_the_turing_test_passed_not_everyone_thinks_so.html ↩
- Kristina D. Micheva, Brad Busse, et al., “Single-Synapse Analysis of a Diverse Synapse Population: Proteomic Imaging Methods and Markers” Neuron 68 (2010): 639-53; F.A.C. Azevedo, L.R.B. Carvalho, et al., “Equal Numbers of Neuronal and Nonneuronal Cells Make the Human Brain an Isometrically Scaled-Up Primate Brain” Journal of Comparative Neurology 513 (2009): 532–541; D. Drachman, “Do We Have Brain to Spare?” Neurology 64 (2005): 2004–5. ↩