- by Gitabushi
This is yet another slapped-together post, partly because I have some half-formed ideas I want to explore in public, and partly because I haven’t written anything for the blog for awhile and PCBushi is growing increasingly abusive in my DMs.
Assertion: Human-like androids are not science fiction, they are fantasy.
Science Fiction, whether Hard or Soft, requires at least a hand-wave explanation of what technology got us there. Science Fiction is supposed to be an investigation of what could happen or what could have happened. Fantasy is more the creation of a fully-impossible universe to explore some concepts. Every Artificially-Intelligent and Indistinguishable-From-Humans android in fiction pretty much just appears on-stage, fully formed, without even much of a handwave.
Whoops! Let me back up.
Assertion: The divisions between Fantasy, Hard Science Fiction, and Soft Science Fiction only matter if you read SFF to think.
If all you want is entertainment, or if the book is written only to entertain, then any classification or sorting attempt is likely to fail, is unnecessary, and probably a bad idea.
Okay, back to the narrative thread.
There are some works that sort of swerve close, at times, in trying to explain How We Got There. “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert Heinlein posits a computer system that “became aware” due to the number of synapses reaching a critical point…but then just adds in a “and something else unknown must have happened” for a few plot reasons I won’t share. The Terminator movie series did explain that the earlier Terminators were just rubber-skinned metal skeletons, but managed to make actual flesh-cloaked cyborgs to defeat detection. Okay, maybe.
I’m fairly well-read, but there are plenty of holes in my reading. No one can read anything, and I haven’t been fond of nearly anything I’ve encountered that was written since, say, 2005.
The one exception to the preceding paragraph is also the best handling of human-like androids that I’ve seen, to date: Jill Domschot’s “The Minaverse” (which should have a mark (diacritic?) above the “a” that I don’t have the ability to add). She spends more than a few pages explaining how her human-like, intelligent androids were developed. It’s necessary to the plot, and well done. It’s more than a handwave, too.
Okay, so I’ve got a strong exception to my assertion…but I maintain the assertion, because I don’t expect anyone else will treat human-like AI androids like science fiction.
The reason is because we *are* still so far away from human-like robots that it is still just magic. Even the most scientifically-knowledgeable writer cannot look at current technology and chart a reasonable path of scientific development to get there.
Arthur C. Clarke stated that any sufficiently-advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. I think the reverse is exploited by human-like AI: any magic is indistinguishable from advanced technology.
Bonus Assertion: Climate Change/AGW and other Leftist Scientastic views exploit this by adding a veneer of scientific gobblydegook to their political articles of faith.
On the other hand, I don’t actually fault movies like AI, Ex Machina, Blade Runner, Terminator, and others I can’t think of right now: Each posits artificially-intelligent robots that are impossibly indistinguishable from humans…but they do it for a purpose: they want to explore the nature of humanity: what if there were alien intelligences that could walk among us, unknown. How would they be aware of us? What would they think of us? Would we be able to notice? What would our relationship be with them? How would they treat us, and how would we treat them?
These are important questions, and I can understand they didn’t want to waste time explaining how we got there, or risk destroying the willing suspension of disbelief in the viewer with an explanation that may not work for everyone.
Assertion: The Turing Test does not actually indicate Artificial Intelligence. It actually indicates shortfalls in human intuition and skepticism.
The Turing Test is: can a computer or other artificial device mimic a human in interaction so well that a human will not recognize it is a machine?
Supposedly an artificial intelligence already passed the test…but only by pretending to be a young boy speaking English as a second language. To me, that’s cheating enough to mean they didn’t pass.
Still, that’s a fascinating glimpse into how first and second language abilities impact our ability to communicate effectively, eh?
But that test says nothing about artificial intelligence. It’s all about the human perception of it.
To be artificially intelligent, a computer must be self-aware. It must have an intent in communication, and possibly in survival of self, and almost certainly must have an ability to learn and synthesize new knowledge from various information inputs.
One book that handled this fairly well is “The Two Faces of Tomorrow”, by James P. Hogan. Also a good read.
What are your thoughts? Am I wrong about indistinguishable-from-human robots? What books have you read that have handled artificial intelligence deftly?
If I ever learn to write a novel, I do plan on writing a multi-work path of how the separate paths of artificial intelligence and human-like robots develop and merge, as part of a Future History of a Robot Apocalypse. Maybe. I have a lot of plans.