Chomsky: Friendly Cars - So What? Enough With the Worries of a Robot Takeover!

Having spent more than half a century teaching at MIT, Noam Chomsky is sick of hearing about the robot takeover. So when asked if singularity tops his list of top threats to human survival—which includes climate change and nuclear war—Chomsky answered, begrudgingly:


"I've been listening to this for 60 years. The line has always been, 'In six months, we will have computers which will do x, y and z' ... we [still] don't have [those]."

By the time Chomsky began teaching at MIT, the Turing Test, a test for evaluating a machine's ability to think, was already in existence.

"You can win $100,000 if you develop a machine that's a program that can pass the so-called Turing Test—fool a human, fool a jury of humans, into thinking it's a person, not a machine," said Chomsky, referencing the average salary of humans working in the field of artificial intelligence.

However, as Chomsky points out, "All of this work overlooks the brief sentence in Turing's paper: The question of whether machines think is too meaningless to deserve discussion," he paraphrased

On July 21, Masayoshi Son, the CEO of the Japanese technology company SoftBank, announced a partnership with Honda to develop a car that detects the driver's emotions and can talk. According to Son, "the number of transistors on a chip is projected to exceed the number of cells in a human brain," Bloomberg reported

"It's kind of sexy to talk about a machine but in and of itself it's kind of like a paperweight; doesn't do anything. It's the program that's doing something, and the program is just some complicated theory," Chomsky asserted. 

"You can develop theories that will do specific tasks, like it was obvious in 1950 that if you put enough time and energy you could develop a program that would win a chess game into against a grand master," the retired MIT professor continued. "How? By getting 100 grand masters to sit around and years and years and figuring out all sorts of possbile circumstances... and it'll do better than a grand master who has half an hour to think about their next move."

"It's good for IBM, but it has no intellectual interest," Chomsky added.

What does, according to Chomsky?

"Getting a machine to do anything that's at all like the creative activities that every four-year-old child can carry out, that's quite different," Chomsky offered. "And I don't think that we have any grasp even on how to go about to do that."

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