Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 343. Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London Hosted by King's Digital Lab www.dhhumanist.org Submit to: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: 2019-10-25 05:39:20+00:00 From: Tim Smithers
Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.337: what we're not ready for Dear Bill and Jim, To me, the question "is languaging (writing, for example, but not just writing) computational?" smells a lot like the question "is intelligence computational?" In AI (and to some extent Cognitive Science) this second question has resulted in much heated but empty and unproductive debate and argument and little else, I think. To be more useful both these questions need to be cast as an hypothesis to be empirically investigated, and accompanied by a convincing and practical programme for how we might do this investigation. But, before we rush off to do this, it would be worth noticing, I think, that AI does not investigate its version of this hypothesis: "intelligence is computational in nature." Most people in AI simply presume intelligence is computational, and they always have done, and have mostly ignored the debate and argument. AI as a field of research is, I think, best understood as an investigation of intelligent behaviour (in its different forms) by trying to (re)create it in the artificial. [Digital] Computation is a very convenient medium to use to do this recreating in the artificial. (And very attractive if you already believe intelligence is computational.) There is, however, a central hazard to this way of investigating intelligence that is inherent in trying to create things in the artificial. Do we end up with what I call Artificial Light AI (AL-AI), or do we end up with what I call Artificial Flower AI (AF-AI)? Like artificial light, AL-AI is the real thing, but created by artificial means, digital computation, for example. AF-AI, on the other hand, like artificial flowers, looks like the real thing, but isn't. In the case of flowers it turns out we can have both natural flowers and we can have artificial flowers that are (sometimes) hard to tell apart from real ones. In the case of light, both natural light and artificial light are the same thing, and cannot be different. What of intelligence? If created in the artificial must intelligence be the real thing, like light? Or, is it like flowers, it might be AF-AI, and thus not the real thing, just a good look-a-like? From the point of view of engineering useful tools and devices, this question may not be important. From the point of view of investigating our hypotheses about the computational nature of languaging and intelligence, it is important. But, it is not an easy question to sort out. How do we tell if it's real AL-AI intelligence, and not AF-AI? Or, how are we going to tell is it's AL-Languaging, done by computational means, or AF-Languaging, again, done by computational means? To illustrate this difficulty, a bit, a recent article in Quanta Magazine is useful, I think. Machines Beat Humans on a Reading Test. But Do They Understand? A tool known as BERT can now beat humans on advanced reading-comprehension tests. But it's also revealed how far AI has to go (https://www.quantamagazine.org/machines-beat-humans-on-a-reading-test-but-do- they-understand-20191017/) BERT is a kind of trained (deep artificial neural network) machine learning tool. The article explains how BERT (and variants) has been used to perform well, and better than most humans, on GLUE (General Language Understanding Evaluation) tasks, thus demonstrating reading comprehension, as measured by GLUE. Comprehension, but not, perhaps, understanding. Not unless we want to say understanding is equivalent to GLUE measured comprehension, and therefore say it is real understanding, and not look alike understanding. I know reading is not writing, but if we have difficulties establishing if computational reading results in real understanding, why would we think establishing that computational writing is the real thing is going to be any easier. And, it would seem strange if (real) reading comprehension turned out not to be computational in nature, but (real) writing does, or, of course, visa versa. Establishing that both reading and writing are computational in nature, or not computational in nature, is not going to be easy, I think. But, this certainly doesn't mean good attempts to do this should not be encouraged. I don't think current practices in AI are going to help much with this, however. This does mean that if work in DH did manage to sort out how to tell if computational writing or reading is real writing and reading, or just (very) good look-a-like writing and reading, to the satisfaction of scholars across the Humanities, this would be, I would say, an important contribution, and not just to the Humanities. Best regards, Tim > On 23 Oct 2019, at 07:28, Humanist wrote: > > Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 337. > Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London > Hosted by King's Digital Lab > www.dhhumanist.org > Submit to: email@example.com > > > > > Date: 2019-10-22 15:22:43+00:00 > From: Jim Rovira > Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.336: what we're not ready for > > Great response, Bill, and thank you for the details and clarification. I > correct myself -- I'm not aware of that kind of work being widely conducted > either. > > I suspect the problem might be that language isn't really computational. It > doesn't unfold word after word. One metaphor is that it's a garden of > forking paths, but even that is too linear. A computer could manage that. A > word isn't a meaning -- it's a range of denotations and connotations that > are continually creating new paths that simultaneously create and > contradict others. It's a series of self involved and self-defeating loops. > In computational terms, the average literary text is a mass of system > crashes. What we might do instead is ask what kinds of approaches to > literary texts most resemble forms of computation already. Might be > tempting to say "New Criticism," but so many of them were in love with > paradox: it's not interesting until the system crashes. Maybe some kinds of > formalism, especially perhaps Russian formalism, and perhaps this might be > an interesting way to revive myth criticism, say, Frye? > > However, have you looked into Robert Brandom? > > Jim R > > On Tue, Oct 22, 2019 at 1:30 AM Humanist wrote: > >> >> I hesitate to offer that passage because, as far as I can tell, Moretti's >> not >> calling for the kind of theoretical inquiry I've been referring to, though >> what he IS calling for interests me a great deal. I quote it, though, >> because it >> does point up pretty much the same issue. To invoke a cliche, computation >> is >> always the bridesmaid, never the bride. >> >> BB >> _______________________________________________ Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted List posts to: firstname.lastname@example.org List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/ Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php
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