Imagine you and an intelligent robot are both before a judge who cannot see you. The judge will guess which of you is the human, and so will live, while the other will die. Both you and the robot want to live. The judge is fair and smart. The judge says: “You must each give me one word from an English dictionary. Based on this word, I will guess who is the human.”
What one word do you choose?
Would it be some lofty spiritual concept like “soul”? Something that reflects your own tastes, like “music”? Or a base bodily function, like “fart”?
This simple thought experiment may seem fanciful, but some cognitive scientists believe that its consideration can help to illuminate our basic assumptions about artificial intelligence while also revealing some surprising insights about our own minds.
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After all, automated ‘chat bots’ and language generating machines increasingly employ artificial intelligence to hold conversations with us or write reams of text that we encounter on a daily basis. How can we tell that the customer service representative we are chatting to online, for example, is a real person or a chirpy algorithm? Or if a fictional story was churned out by a machine rather than lovingly crafted by a human writer? Communicative AI is no longer a purely theoretical prospect and we need to be prepared to deal with it.