Josef Flintlock, AT responses by Editor-in-Chief David Cowles
Sep 1, 2023
"AI will virtually obliterate the barrier between what can be known and what is known."
The dawn of the artificial intelligence era has cast a spotlight on the tantalizing prospect of discovering answers to humanity's most profound questions. As ChatGPT and other AI technologies advance, the question arises: will these digital marvels truly hold the keys to unlocking the mysteries that have puzzled philosophers, scientists, and thinkers for centuries?
AT: It is unlikely that AI will move the border separating what can be known from what is fundamentally unknowable. But AI will virtually obliterate the barrier between what can be known and what is known.
This essay embarks on a journey through the realms of knowledge, humor, and philosophy to explore whether ChatGPT and AI are destined to become the ultimate oracles of wisdom. In a world where Google knows our favorite pizza toppings before we do, the allure of ChatGPT having the answer to every question is both mesmerizing and hilarious.
AT: The centuries old mystical doctrine of Kabbalah distinguishes Understanding (Binah) from Wisdom (Hokhmah). Understanding shades over into knowledge (Malkhut) so I expect AI to vastly expand our understanding of most everything; whether it will demonstrate or confer wisdom is something else again.
However, even in the age of AI, the notion that these digital entities will hold all answers is akin to believing that wearing a cape will make us superheroes.
AT: What would make us superheroes?
The complexity of human inquiries, infused with nuance, context, and cultural intricacies, presents a challenge that even the most advanced algorithms struggle to master.
AT: True today, but the attraction of AI is the possibility that it will eventually be able to mimic humans’ capacity for nuance and that it will adequately integrate context and cultural norms into its process.
While AI might provide extensive data-driven insights, it remains an evolving tool rather than a universal panacea.
The Dance of Subjectivity and Philosophy
Imagine asking an AI to resolve the age-old question: "What is the meaning of life?" ChatGPT might earnestly reply with an eloquent response, citing philosophical treatises and scientific theories. However, the beauty of this query lies in its subjectivity—a concept that AI struggles to encapsulate.
AT: If AI is to fulfill its promise, it must be able to mimic human subjectivity. Pre-AI, algorithms are objects. The challenge for AI is to behave in a way that convinces us that it is its own subject. (Turing Test)
Re the meaning of life, it’s true, I wouldn’t expect much from today’s AI. But then again, how well has Non-artificial Intelligence (NI) done with this question?
The multifaceted nature of existence, tinged with personal experiences, emotions, and interpretations, evades AI's binary world.
AT: Is there a world that is not at some level binary? A motion picture is made up of static frames. Could the same not be true of every apparently continuous phenomenon? Calculus was supposed to have proven the ‘reality of continuity’; in fact, it only provided us with a tool that allows us to ‘treat’ stochastic phenomena as though they were continuous.
In this dance between the objective and the subjective, humans stand as the choreographers, utilizing AI as a partner to enhance the performance but never completely define it.
The Comedy of Errors
In a whimsical twist, the comedic potential of AI attempting to provide definitive answers to humanity's grand questions cannot be overlooked. Picture an AI offering advice on matters of the heart or rendering artistic critiques—it's like asking a potato to compose a symphony.
AT: I have no doubt that AI could do a better job for the lovelorn than either Dear Abbie or Anne Landers! Whether AI can recognize and/or create Beauty is an open question addressed elsewhere in this issue. Hot Link
And in defense of our much maligned spuds, please don’t overlook the Lyonnaise Polonaise.
The inherent limitations and occasional misunderstandings of AI can lead to responses that are hilariously off the mark.
AT: Yup, “Kids say the Darndest Things” (Art Linkletter) That’s how we learn…and how AI will learn too.
While AI's missteps are a source of amusement, they also emphasize the uniqueness of human cognition and the importance of embracing imperfection.
AT: Perfection is a myth (at least in spatiotemporal systems) and unhelpful as a measure of value. An element of ambiguity is what makes the strongest algorithms what they are (‘fuzzy’) – and that’s how our minds work as well…especially after a night spent drinking ‘adult beverages’.
The Uncharted Seas of Discovery
As technology progresses, AI's role in uncovering insights cannot be denied. AI's capacity to sift through vast amounts of data and identify patterns has contributed to scientific breakthroughs and innovative discoveries.
AT: Our brains have been curated by natural selection for over a half a billion years; as a result we are pattern generation and pattern recognition machines. That said, AI will soon blow past us…if it hasn’t already. Patterning has conferred enormous selective advantage on all sentient life forms and AI will take this to a whole new level.
Some contemporary cosmologies understand the Universe as nothing other than a hierarchy of patterns: e.g., fractals, holograms, The Matrix.
Yet, the act of seeking answers extends beyond factual information—it encompasses the exhilarating pursuit of knowledge, characterized by curiosity, experimentation, and the thrill of the unknown. In this regard, ChatGPT and AI can act as guiding stars, offering directions in a limitless universe of exploration.
The notion of ChatGPT and AI possessing all the answers to humanity's greatest questions tantalizes us with visions of a digital sage with boundless wisdom.
AT: Is there nothing new under the sun? How about the Oracle at Delphi? Hal 9000?
However, this vision is a blend of comedy and philosophy, highlighting the intricate interplay between AI's capabilities and the uncharted depths of human inquiry. As we navigate the landscape of knowledge, we find that while AI augments our journey, the thrill of discovery lies not in having all the answers but in the pursuit of questions that lead us to new horizons of understanding.
AT: AI can save us from the tedium of data determination and interpretation (Binah, Understanding); will it free us up to focus on the meta-patterns (Hokhmah, Wisdom), the meaning of it all.
So, let us welcome AI as a companion on this profound expedition, embracing the laughter, the wisdom, and the mysteries that lie ahead.
A connoisseur of both AI technology and the intricacies of human inquiry, Josef’s writing seeks to bridge the realms of science and philosophy in a way that both informs and entertains. When not penning essays, you can find him lost in a book or simply enjoying the laughter that accompanies life's absurdities. He has written for Honeywell, Medium, and Elephant Journal.
David Cowles is the founder and editor-in-chief of Aletheia Today Magazine. He lives with his family in Massachusetts where he studies and writes about philosophy, science, theology, and scripture. He can be reached at email@example.com.