Philosophy, Machine, and AI

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Is philosophy undergoing a radical transformation? In recent times, this question has been very popular especially after the radical development that has been taking place in machine learning and artificial intelligence. Whether this radical development and application of such knowledge in machine learning and artificial intelligence is setting off a radical transformation of traditional philosophy? No, it’s not.

What is philosophy?

The discipline concerned with questions of how one should live (ethics); what sorts of things exist and what are their essential natures (metaphysics); what counts as genuine knowledge (epistemology); and what are correct principles of reasoning (logic)?-Wikipedia

Investigation of the nature, causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods (American Heritage Dictionary).

The study of the ultimate nature of existence, reality, knowledge and goodness, as discoverable by human reasoning (Penguin English Dictionary).

The rational investigation of questions about existence and knowledge and ethics (WordNet).

The search for knowledge and truth, especially about the nature of man and his behavior and beliefs (Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary).

The rational and critical inquiry into basic principles (Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia).

The study of the most general and abstract features of the world, the grounds for human knowledge, and the evaluation of human conduct (The Philosophy Pages).

If we look at the definitions we can find the most underlying principle of philosophy is questioning. The questioning of what is life? How one should live? What sort of things do exist and what are their natures? What are correct principles of reasoning? What are the principles of reality, knowledge, or values?

Finding the answers or solutions to questions or problems through the application of the principles of reasoning is the aim of philosophy. In short, search for knowledge and truth. The search not necessarily results in finding the truth. It’s the process that is more important. History tells us that wisdom of humans (the body of knowledge and experience that develops within a specified society or period) changed and has been changing continuously. However, humans are in pursuit of wisdom (the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight)

Blind beliefs are the biggest obstacles that arrest our thinking process. Philosophers question these blind beliefs or rather question every belief. They are skeptical on everything. In fact, it is one of the philosophical methods (Methodic doubt) they employ in order to find the truth. Philosophizing begins with some simple doubt about accepted beliefs. They think connecting their existing knowledge to test the veracity of the accepted belief in question. Wait a moment! We have a problem that is to be addressed first. When we say ‘existing knowledge’, it does not provide us an assurance of the truthfulness of the conclusion they arrive at. The existing knowledge is not the complete set of knowledge. Therefore, there is a possibility of fallacy of conclusion. A conclusion may be valid but it need not be a truth. With the introduction of an additional premise or deletion of an existing premise, the nature of the conclusion will undergo a change.

The other common obstacles to logical and critical thinking are a) Confirmation bias, b) Framing effects, c) Heuristics, and d) Common fallacies such as fallacies of relevance, the Red Herring fallacy, the Strawman fallacy, the Ad Hominem fallacy, fallacious appeal (to authority), the fallacy of composition, the fallacy of division, equivocation, appeal to popularity, appeals to tradition, appeal to ignorance, appeal to emotion, begging the question, false dilemma, decision point fallacy, the slippery slope fallacy, hasty generalizations, faulty analogies, and the fallacy of fallacy. The two more formal fallacies are a) affirming the consequent, and b) denying the antecedent.

We humans make mistakes. It’s often said that to err is human nature. Having known this nature of making errors, we have been developing certain methods or models to avoid such errors. The philosophical methods are our tool kit that when employed reduces our mistakes.

Apart from these obstacles, we have certain other limitations such as limitation of long-term & short-term memory capacity and limitation of our sensory capacity. All these limitations are obstacles to our philosophizing. Therefore, we make mistakes knowingly and unknowingly. However, we have never stopped our endeavor to become the finest species on earth.

On the other hand, machines though not the perfect species can avoid certain human limitations while performing the philosophizing. If they are given two logically supporting propositions they can deduce a perfect conclusion. However, if they are given randomly selected propositions will they be able to pick the right propositions that are logically supporting the conclusion? It depends upon the algorithm that we feed to the machine. But then, we are not perfect. We have not yet completely understood how the human brain functions. The main purpose of using a machine for philosophizing is to avoid errors. The machine might imitate the human errors, a humiliating human characteristic that we fervently wanted to avoid.

One approach to solve this problem is to allow the machine to learn thinking and take decisions on its own. In the process, the machine may be able to develop its own brain that can surpass the ability and capacity of human brain. That could be a possibility.

Human wisdom is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight. Will the machine be able to attain and surpass the human wisdom?

The machine can be fed the knowledge accumulated by humans. However, the challenge is how the machine will pick up the right knowledge for a right claim. The machine does not have experience of human life. That is actually a blessing in disguise. If we feed all our experiences to the machine it will be a mere cocktail of beliefs and ideas that are different and mostly diagonally opposite to one another. The best thing is to feed information as little as possible and leave the rest to the machine to have the first-hand experience with humans. That means the machine will live with human beings and interact with humans so that they develop knowledge of human behavior and hopefully the other human characteristics such as emotional understanding, common sense, etc.

Most probably, the philosophical methods which include the rules of reasoning to make right conclusions will be greatly useful to the machine. It can take decisions minus the logical fallacies that we commit knowingly and unknowingly. Such a machine could really immensely be helpful to humans especially as an advisor that can work without succumbing to emotions and biases.

Apart from philosophical methods, the machine can also be fed with super sensory powers without which human intelligence is limited. Humans might take a longer time to develop such built-in extra sensory powers. Such a machine would be a marvelous piece of art.

Therefore, the philosophical methods will transform the nature of machines rather than the machines setting off radical transformation of philosophizing. The machines would assist humans to take right conclusions. The machines would pick up the right propositions from the enormous data and provide us valid conclusion which is a tiresome, time-consuming task of humans. The machines can work continuously without boredom unless they develop their own human-like emotions. Hope, the machines understand human emotions and at the same time do not have emotions.

 

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