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Artificial Intelligence

Great minds place the spotlight on AI

If you ask Amazon's Alexa whether she’s as smart as Wittgenstein, you get the vague answer "I'm sorry I'm not sure." But this makes it sound as though she thinks it’s possible. In a current series of dialogs at the Munich School of Philosophy, bright minds are exploring the matter.

24 Nov. 2017

The rapid and extensive progress in artificial intelligence raises numerous questions, not least of a philosophical nature. When Deep Thought - the supercomputer from Douglas Adams's novel "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" - answers the question about the meaning of life with a simple "42", hardened philosophers refer to a quotation by Wittgenstein: "We feel that even if all possible scientific questions are answered, the problems of our lives are still not touched at all." Wittgenstein - whose intelligence Alexa, or rather her creators, believes it can match - died in the middle of the last century. This was long before grand master Garry Kasparov called the chess computer Deep Blue "That goddamn thing!" when it beat him. Yet Wittgenstein - probably the last great philosopher - foresaw the rise of artificial intelligence. And he predicted that identifying - and taking into account - two or more aspects of a single matter would present AI with a major problem, as it does for people. Paul Noth summed up this problem in his cartoon of two armies facing each other ready to fight - both armies have the same symbol in their flags, yet one side perceives it as a rabbit’s head, while the other thinks it's a duck's head…

Wittgenstein bequeathed us the following advice: "Don't think - look!" Whether this can also be applied to artificial intelligence is something that seasoned experts are exploring in a series of dialogs focusing on AI issues at the Munich School of Philosophy, which began on 20 November. Under the title "Where next for humanity? Risks and opportunities of artificial intelligence", astrophysicist, natural philosopher and TV presenter Harald Lesch, natural philosopher Hans-Dieter Mutschler, transhumanistic philosopher Stefan Sorgner, and Dieter Spath, President of Germany's National Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech), are discussing the topic with professors from the school. The next date for the series of dialogs, which is being supported by the NoMaNi Foundation, is 7 p.m. on Monday, 18 December 2017. Prof. Hans-Dieter Mutschler (Krakow) will then join Prof. Stefan Bauberger in undertaking a critical analysis of the computer metaphor. At 7 p.m. on Monday, 8 January 2018, Prof. Stefan Sorgner (Rome) and Prof. Michael Bordt will meet to discuss "Transhumanism, privacy and the integration of AI into humans", and at 7 p.m. on Monday, 22 January 2018, Prof. Dieter Spath (acatech, Munich) and Prof. Johannes Wallacher will be examining the impact of digitization and artificial intelligence on the future of work.


Hochschule für Philosophie München (80539 München, Germany)