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Cafe Inquiry

Tuesday, August 27
6:15 pm - 8:15 pm

Shaw (Watha T. Daniel) Neighborhood Library
1630 7th St NW
Washington, DC 20001 US

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Organized by:
Center for Inquiry–DC (CFI–DC)


This month’s discussion topic: Artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence can be considered to describe programs or algorithms that mimic the human mind. This could take the form of recall of information (memory), achieving an objective (problem-solving), generating a model of the world (analyzing), or understanding and mimicking interactions (social intelligence). The famous “Turing Test” is a model of artificial intelligence proposed in its formative years that defined an intelligence as successful if it modeled human interactions in a way that could not be detected by the human observer.

Since its inception, artificial intelligence has had mixed success. Early conceptions modeled on an algorithm could compete with humans in a limited and well-defined environment (such as playing checkers or Go) or retrieving information, but were much less successful in situations where information was limited or systems were fluid. More modern approaches, modeled on neural networks, however, have become a black box whose results can be extremely difficult to verify. Social and language learning is also still poor, with programs having immense difficulty deciphering accents or mimicking social interactions on twitter or facebook in appropriate ways.

There has also been concern about the results of artificial intelligence. Would artificial intelligence, if successful, replace or out-compete human intelligence (a la “Terminator” or “The Matrix)? Would a machine intelligence that successfully mimicks human interactions be sentient, and warrant rights and protections? Is there some technical or physical limitation that will prevent artificial intelligence from bridging the gap with human intelligence, such that social intelligence programs will always have failures? On a fun level, where will artificial intelligence go in the next 10 years? 25 years? Indefinite future?

After the discussion we will head over to Beau Thai down the street for those who wish to have food and continue the conversation.