Why is AI so Scary?

Posted 20 Oct 2005 at 20:05 UTC by steve Share This

Some people react with fear or alarm at the idea of non-biological machines exhibiting intelligence, sentience, or feelings. In a recently released review of three feather-ruffling books, Michael L. Anderson asks, "Why is AI So Scary?" (PDF format). The books reviewed by Anderson include Digital Soul: Intelligent Machines and Human Values by Thomas M. Georges, Silicon Second Nature: Culturing Artificial Life in a Digital World by anthropologist Stefan Helmreich, and God in the Machine: What Robots Teach Us About Humanity and God by theologist Anne Foerst. Anderson ponders whether there is something about scientists or about the public that creates the impression of something scary going on. He notes an idea from Georges' book that robots may be "against" us and "destroy" us in the sense that machine intelligence represents a rational world view that challenges various inherited, deeply-held mystical beliefs. Having these beliefs challenged by a rational world view might result in the destruction of old mental conceptions of humanity. Ironically, at the same time that the public fears human-like machines, Foerst's book describes an experiment which seems to show that we may already be anthropomorphising computers. Foerst also argues that only a tiny minority of religious extermists are unable to reconcile science and religion but Anderson isn't buying this argument. Overall, it sounds like an interesting trio of books that deal with contentious issues of philisophy, religion, and science.

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