Artificial intelligence: Robots better than humans?

The continuous advances in technology and the sophistication of the processes of simulation of human intelligence, the so-called artificial intelligence, raises, in more and more areas of life, diverse questions about its evolution, its usefulness or the submission of the human being to these processes. This topic was the focus of the November 2021 Omnes - CARF Meeting, in which Professors Javier Sánchez Cañizares and Gonzalo Génova participated. 

Maria José Atienza-December 11, 2021-Reading time: 7 minutes
Artificial intelligence.

If only fifty years ago the most visionary of scientists had peered, for example, at the latest edition of the Mobile World Congress If he had gone back to his lab to tell his colleagues about it, there would have been more than a few who would have labeled him as crazy or as having read too many science fiction novels. 

Today, technological advances have led to the use of artificial intelligence in practically all areas of life: from our cell phone apps to realities such as autonomous vehicles, the creation of materials including food or the development of the pharmaceutical industry. 

This progress has led, for example, to the development of theories that defend a future in which robots are not only equal, but superior to human beings, or the disintegration of the concept of the human being. human being as such to be substituted or "improved" in such a way that realities such as death, natural procreation or limitations are mere "memories of the past". 

The question of how far artificial intelligence can go continues to be at the forefront, as demonstrated by the lively Omnes-CARF Meeting held on November 22, which featured as keynote speaker Javier Sánchez Cañizares, PhD in Physics and Theology, director of the Science, Reason and Faith (CRYF) of the Ecclesiastical Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Navarra and researcher of the Group Mind-brain: biology and subjectivity in contemporary philosophy and neuroscience. with Gonzalo Génova, who holds a degree in Philosophy, a PhD in Computer Engineering and is a professor in the Department of Computer Science at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. 

In this colloquium, which can be found on the Omnes YouTube channel, many of the questions that emerge today when considering the infinite possibilities that are opening up in the field of artificial intelligence were raised. Both professors, 

What is artificial intelligence?

In recent years, the adjective smart has been extended, perhaps too broadly, to a multitude of areas, gadgets and systems in everyday life. 

We have smart watches, smart houses, smart robots that perform heart operations... However, there is no exact correlation between human intelligence and artificial intelligence. 

Gonzalo Génova defines artificial intelligence as "a computer-based system that is capable of receiving and evaluating information from its environment, and finding non-explicitly programmed solutions to given problems." 

On the other hand, and also related to this, a concept of the artificial as opposed to the natural has spread. An opposition that Javier Sánchez Cañizares qualifies when he states that "the artificial is a way of determining the natural", since humans are able to use gravity to make buildings or medicines from natural compounds. "The artificial completes the natural."the Group's director emphasizes Science, Reason and Faith"since the artificial is not created out of nothing."

Both definitions point out key points of this topic: the determination of specific purposes, despite the multitude of processes that can be created for this purpose, and the need for natural elements for the development of the processes. 

As Javier Sanchez Cañizares explains, he talks more about artificial intelligence at weak sense to refer to machines or robots designed to solve specific problems: for example, to play chess; while the concept of artificial intelligence in strong sense is reserved for a program that simulates the processes of human behavior. The most discussed questions in this field obviously arise from this second concept: can artificial intelligence replace human intelligence, have freedom, be, for example, responsible for actions? What is the key difference between human beings and machines?

The creativity of the purposes

Based on Genoa's definition, artificial intelligence is directed towards the achievement of specific goals. This specific purpose is what makes any innovation that this system may produce in the processes to be aimed at achieving that purpose. 

The machine's creativity is always subordinated to one or more ends predetermined by a programmer. This implies that, although an artificial intelligence system can modify itself, it will always do so with those ends in mind. 

In a human intelligence system, the context does not alter the ultimate goals, as it does in the life of a human being. 

So, just as in a machine the ends determine its creation and define it, what would be the end that defines the human being? As Sánchez Cañizares points out, the evolutionary purpose of the human being is not, as in the rest of the animal species, mere survival. If this is the case, emphasizes the director of the Science, Reason and Faithwould be a scandalous failure, "since there are much more advanced systems... Humans are not particularly successful at survival." and this is so because their ultimate purpose goes beyond a simple physical choice to live or to continue the species. In the case of human beings, the spiritual plane comes into play. For believers, the end of the human being may be to respond to God's call, for non-believers a total fulfillment..., in short, we could say that happiness is the end of the human being. But, above all, what this reality shows is that the human being is born with the capacity to set ends for himself, unlike any machine. 

The end of man is not determined. Moreover, the same end is realized differently in each of the people who live in the world. Javier Sánchez Cañizares points out that "Precisely, we are having many ends that create new contexts and create the history of our life. The idea, true, that the ultimate goal of man is to be happy does not serve to make a decision today and now". It is translated into new purposes as each person's life develops in new contexts. 

As Sánchez Cañizares states "the ends of the human being are contextual, which call for other ends and which, in the end, are integrated into the great end.". In man we find the creativity of the ends: that is the leap with respect to any artificial intelligence system, however advanced it may be. 

Even when an artificial intelligence system includes a very high percentage of changes in its system, as Sánchez Cañizares emphasizes, "we can never program the enormous variety of contexts that are born with the human being: we need to live to know the contexts. There are ends that we cannot create without living and that is only possible because of the infinite potentiality that gives us the spirit, our immaterial knowledge.". In the human being, knowledge, although linked to an organic matter, is not limited by it, because of its immateriality it goes beyond it.

Not in vain, as both professors remind us, the human being is not only a problem solver, but also has the ability to pose these problems and to vary their contexts limitlessly. This makes it completely different from a programming sequence that, even considering millions of variables, will always have the programmer's "bias" in the background. 

"The IA evolution"

"The soul is in a sense, all things.". This quotation from Aristotle is taken up by Javier Sánchez Cañizares to underline how human beings, although they cannot know everything, can show interest in everything; although, ultimately, they remain limited, since they cannot supplant the very evolution of the universe. Indeed, natural mutations remain an enigma for human beings. 

"The variations that appear in our universe involve genuine novelties that introduce new degrees of freedom in nature."Javier Sánchez Cañizares stresses. Its success is not assured. Only with the development of these changes, with the "living" of this new scenario, the progress or death of this change of pattern is confirmed, but the internal logic of this mutation remains within the realm of hypothesis for the human being. 

The current degree of technological progress has led some scientists or philosophers to propose a hypothetical moment of libertarian "revolution" of machines: a scenario in which the simulation of human knowledge processes in machines is so advanced that robots would surpass the human species itself, "freeing" itself from its determination and domination. Would machines then be free and responsible? Does this possibility exist or is it a chapter of science fiction? 

Based on the concepts explained above, artificial intelligence makes sense within its purpose. Why would a person want a machine that does not know what it is for? The idea that if machines are allowed to evolve "naturally" they will eventually surpass human beings contains a key conceptual trap, since artificial intelligence would then lose the specificity of its qualifier: to be produced to improve, punctually or contextually - according to human standards - the results of biological evolution. In other words, it would cease to be artificial and would be incongruent with itself and with its raison d'être: to solve concrete problems. 

An uncontrolled machine is a danger. So is a completely controlled man. This is what Professors Sánchez Cañizares and Génova point out. The natural evolutionary dynamics is beyond the reach of human knowledge. Not knowing the dynamics of natural evolution makes it impossible, therefore, to lay the foundations for a similar evolution in the field of artificial intelligence. As Sánchez Cañizares points out, "We cannot program evolution. But we can design ingenuities to solve specific problems." "It is a Promethean dream to think that we can create a general artificial intelligence, simply because we are not gods; only God can do that. And the good news is that that's not a failure, but a reminder of our limits as creatures and also that we have to be grateful that we owe everything we've received."Javier Sánchez Cañizares adds.

Ethical dimensions of AI 

The development of artificial intelligence systems and biogenetic technology has brought to the table, especially in recent years, a variety of issues in which the ethical assessment of the processes themselves comes into play. From the reading of our use of mobile devices and the processing of this data into consumption patterns that are sold to the marketing industry to the question of transhumanism. 

It is not for nothing that the development of "technobiological" integration projects such as the one known as the avatar project years ago, he proposed the idea of transferring the mind, personality and memory of a human being to a computer, creating a computer model of human consciousness. 

Beyond the realization or not of this type of experiments, the underlying idea of this type of tests is based on a completely materialistic conception of the human being and also raises certain moral and ethical questions. Is it possible to create freedom, are autonomous cars morally responsible, for example, and could this be the case, for example, if they were to be used in a car? liability gap in "cyborgs" or humanoid robots whose "mind", partially or totally, was an artificial product?

The reality is that, as Gonzalo Genova explains, "Any technology is developed to achieve certain ends. The first thing to consider in the ethical assessment of an artificial intelligence is what it has been designed to do.". To this we must add the programming given to each machine in question, which is based on finding a successful strategy from its interaction with the environment. 

But, ultimately, a machine is not free, so it cannot be responsible for its actions. To speak of "cyborgs", or "humanoid" beings with programmed intellects is reduced, in the end, to the theorization of a new species of slaves with infinite possibilities but without freedom or responsibility. That is, with serious moral objections already in its original design.

 In short, as both professors emphasize, "artificial intelligence will be successful to the extent that it serves humans, and this service should be directed, as Pope Francis emphasized in his video of November 2020, to "respect for the dignity of the person and of Creation. May the progress of robotics and artificial intelligence always be at the service of the human being... may we say 'be human'....".

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