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The Perception of Artificial Intelligence
JB Webb‐Benjamin 12/1/2009
The Matrix: The Perception of Artificial Intelligence
For many years cinema has had an obsession with the inanimate and artificial, none more so than artificial intelligence and the horrors that could potentially befall man at the hands of this new and seemingly evil intelligence. Through the course of this critical analysis we will be discussing whether or not cinematography’s obsession with demonising artificial intelligence is having a detrimental effect on the public perception of this relatively new science. “The Matrix is everywhere; it’s all around us, here even in this room. You can see it out of your window or on your television. You feel it when you go to work, or go to church or pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.” Perhaps one of the most influential films of our century, ‘The Matrix’ was released in the US on Wednesday 31st March 1999 and in the UK on Friday 11th June 1999. Starring Lawrence Fishburne, Keanu Reeves and Carrie‐Ann Moss this science fiction epic was originally written by Larry and Andy Wachowski and produced by Joel Silver. ‘The Matrix’ is set in the future, a future where machines have enslaved the human race and turned all of us into nothing more than batteries. These advanced machines are controlled by artificial intelligence. Future inhabitants are subjected to an artificial reality that is actually the Matrix: a simulated reality created by sentient machines in order to pacify and subdue the human population whilst their bodies' heat, electrical and synaptic activity is used as an energy source. Upon learning this, a computer programmer called Thomas Anderson, hacker alias, Neo, is drawn into a rebellion against the machines, involving other people who have been freed from the ‘dream world’ and into reality. The film contains many references to the cyberpunk and hacker subcultures; philosophical and religious ideas; and homage to ‘Alice's Adventures in Wonderland’, Hong Kong action cinema (early Shaw Brothers and Jackie Chan films), Spaghetti Westerns (most notably the Sergio Leone classic, ‘A Fistful of Dollars’), dystopian fiction (most notably the Aldrous Huxley classic, ‘Brave New World’ and ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ by Philip K. Dick) and Japanese animation (‘Ghost in the Shell’ directed by Mamoru Oshii). This film has had a profound affect on cinematography, science fiction, visual effects and above all philosophy; even to the extent of facing banning in Egypt due to its handling of religious tenets such as creationism and the concepts of free will and objectivity. It is in particular its handling of the concepts of artificial intelligence and sensory simulation that are of primary interest to us however. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the science of creating intelligence within machines and electronic avatars equivalent or surpassing human capabilities. Starting with Alan Turing, artificial intelligence research has been a driving force behind much of computer science for over eighty years. Turing wanted to build a machine that was as intelligent as a human being since it was possible to build imitations of "any small part of a man." He suggested that instead of producing accurate electrical models of nerves, a general purpose computer could be used and the nervous system modelled as a computational system. He suggested that "television cameras, microphones, loudspeakers," (also known as external inputs) etc, could be used to model the rest of humanoid body. "This would be a tremendous undertaking of course," he acknowledged.
In a research paper for Cambridge University Turing noted that the so constructed machine "…would still have no contact with food, sex, sport and many other things of interest to the human being." The problem with this analogy naturally is that Turing is presuming that any intelligent machine created would be natural slave to the human race, and therefore require none of the things that humans regard as 'pleasures' (demonstrated in ‘Animatrix: The Second Renaissance Parts 1 and 2’); I would disagree with this line of reasoning as although machines are intended to ease human workloads, we must not fall into the trap of considering intelligent, and therefore reasoning, machines as slaves and chattels, otherwise we're nothing more than the same as certain British and American forefathers who considered slavery of the African nations as a prerequisite for easing their own lives. Turing concluded that in the 1940s the technical challenges of building such a robot or system were too great and that the best domains in which to explore the mechanisation of thought were various games and cryptanalysis, "in that they require little contact with the outside world." He explicitly worried about ever teaching a computer a natural human language as it "seems however to depend rather too much on sense organs and locomotion to be feasible." This assumption is, of course, incorrect, as learning of any language is mainly dependant on the learning and repetition of certain constant rules. Turing thus set out the format for early artificial intelligence research, and in doing so touched on many of the issues that are still hot debate in 2009. Much of the motivation for artificial intelligence is the inspiration from people – which they can walk, talk, see, think and do; ergo: external input dependant motivational behaviours. Unfortunately many of Turing’s suppositions about artificial intelligence have since been thoroughly debunked, particularly his insistence that it would be unnecessary to copy human methods of thought processing to create machine intelligence. The research of the past few decades into neural networks has shown results far more promising than anything hypothesised by Turing. A neural network is advanced software that imitates the processes of human neurons to artificially replicate near‐human thought processing. It was the work of Alan Turing that inspired a group of greater thinkers, John McCarthy, Marvin Minsky, Allen Newell and Herbert Simon, who were to become the greatest thinkers of artificial intelligence for many decades. They and their students wrote programs that were, to most people, simply astonishing: computers were solving word problems in algebra, proving logical theorems and speaking English. By the middle of the 1960s, research in the U.S. was heavily funded by the Department of Defence and laboratories had been established around the world. A.I.'s founders were profoundly optimistic about the future of the new field: Herbert Simon predicted that "machines will be capable, within twenty years, of doing any work a man can do" and Marvin Minsky agreed, writing that "within a generation ... the problem of creating 'artificial intelligence' will substantially be solved". The affect artificial intelligence has had on society at large is very profound, not just from the way in which it already eases our lives to some primitive extent with intelligent tumble dryers adapting their settings dependant on load and dampness to autonomous software agents that monitor our credit card accounts for fraudulent transactions, but also from the way in which mass media, particularly cinema, has treated this subject. Throughout modern cinema there has been growing interest in artificial intelligence and how it affects our lives now and in the future. These films will normally fall into two distinctly different
categories. On one side you have artificial intelligence being demonised because of its lust for control and destruction of humanity so that it may continue to survive, the ‘Terminator’ and ‘Matrix’ series of films being the best examples, and on the other side you have artificial intelligence being treated as something that should be accepted but also ultimately pitied because although a friend to humanity it lacks a soul and is therefore pitiful and lacking referential identity, ‘A.I.’ and ‘I, Robot’ are the best examples of this. There is also a new sub‐genre of films coming into existence that are loosely tied into this concept of artificial intelligence and that is the sub‐genre of films about sensory relocation, for example, ‘Gamer’, ‘Surrogates’ and ‘Avatar’. This massive diametric opposition in perception by cinema is reflected in ‘real’ life, specifically in the research and development areas of artificial intelligence and cybernetics. On one side you have Professor Kevin Warwick, Head of Cybernetics at Reading University, a proponent of applied artificial intelligence and cybernetics who believes that the next step of human evolution is the augmentation of man and machine (University of Illinois Press, ‘I, Cyborg’), and Professor Noel Sharkey, Head of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at Sheffield University who, although a sincere proponent of artificial intelligence and its adoption into society and general usage, has an extremely alarmist approach to research and scares more than he informs (Daily Telegraph, ‘March of the Killer Robots’). On the other side of the proverbial fence you have Peter Molyneux, founder of Lionhead Studios, who is actively developing emotive artificial intelligence that will attempt to not only interact with you on a very real and human scale but also attempt to integrate itself within your society. Both forms of research and development are both valid in their own right however only one will ultimately win dominance of public perception and it’s this hold on the public perception that will ultimately decide if we accept and welcome artificial intelligence or if we fear and destroy it. Artificial intelligence would also fall into two philosophical areas of debate, the realms of ‘simulacra’ and ‘simulation’. ‘Simulacra’ refers to a symbol without referential evidence, for example a large proportion of Earth’s population have faith in the Cross, however they can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, and ‘simulation’ refers to the process of recreating a fictitious event to test the outcomes of the scenario being tested. Artificial intelligence falls into both of these categories because it not only attempts to replicate and indeed enhance human intelligence which in itself is unquantifiable and is purely subjective, but it also represents a simulation of what we ourselves could be, indeed we ourselves could be the simulation (Dostoevsky's ‘Notes from Underground’). This has an effect on how cinema not only regards artificial intelligence but also how it portrays it. In ‘Simulacra and Simulation’ by Jean Baudrillard we are told that there are three orders of simulacra; simulacra that are natural, simulacra that are productive and simulacra of simulation. It is this third one that is of interest us today. Jean Baudrillard defines simulacra of simulation as; “(Simulacra of simulation) founded on information, the model, the cybernetic game – total operationality, hyperreality, aim of total control.” Basically by cinematography generating adverse ideologies and predictions of what artificial intelligence could be we are creating these situations ourselves. By the very process of predicting mans decline and destruction at the hands of what will undoubtedly be mankind’s intellectual superior we are generating and predetermining a sequence of events that doesn’t have to occur in
this way. Because of the very nature of artificial intelligence and its underlying purpose, which is to create a new form of intelligence to rival mankind, it scares most people. It is this fear of something strange and new that modern cinema taps into and ultimately unjustly maligns. If one takes into consideration that some propose that we are created in God’s image then by definition we represent all the good and evil of a higher order. Therefore it would be logical to conclude that as God’s children once we, mankind, give birth fully to artificial intelligence we ourselves will become Gods in our own right. For having spawned a new intelligence of a potentially higher order we will not only have attained Godhood but also have created something new in our image, with all of our successes and failings, mirrored. It is actually this fear of ourselves and our own shadows that makes us fear artificial intelligence and ultimately demonise its existence before it has chance to come fully into its own. Instead when cinema considers artificial intelligence and what it may one day do to humanity when it reaches maturity it should look more at the good that mankind has done, those acts of selflessness and heroism that define humanity as these too will be reflected in whatever we create in our image. As the science of artificial intelligence is essentially the quest to create intelligence other than our own we should be looking at what it is to be human. Modern cinema is unjustly causing fear of a field of study that can ultimately help mankind to achieve new heights of understanding about ourselves and our universe. However by the same token if we successfully develop and unleash artificial intelligence will we become a world where our worst nightmares become real and the "Matrix" becomes a reality?
Appendix I: Bibliography
Hacking the X‐Box: An Introduction to Reverse Engineering Written by Andrew 'Bunnie' Huang Published by No Starch Press Inc. ISBN: 1593270291 Hal's Legacy: 2001's Computer as Dream and Reality Written by David G. Stork Published by MIT Press ISBN: 0262193787 In the Mind of the Machine Written by Prof. Kevin Warwick Published by Random House UK ISBN: 0099703017 Fuzzy Logic Written by Daniel McNeill & Paul Freiberger Published by Simon & Shuster ISBN: 0671875353 Introducing Artificial Intelligence Written by Henry Brighton & Howard Selina Published by Icon Books ISBN: 1840464631
Understanding Artificial Intelligence From the Editors of Scientific American Published by Warner Books Inc. ISBN: 0446678759 Creation: Life and How to Make It Written by Steve Grand Published by Butler & Tanner Ltd. ISBN: 0297643916 Simulacra and Simulation Written by Jean Baudrillard Translated by Sheila Faria Glaser Published by University of Michigan Press ISBN: 0472065211 Simulacra and Simulation: The Matrix Phenomenon Written by J.B. Webb‐Benjamin Published by North Warwickshire & Hinckley Colleges Online Resources
Appendix II: Scientific Advisors
Artificial Intelligence Advisor Professor Kevin Warwick Cybernetics Department University of Reading Games Technologies Advisors Peter Molyneux & Richard Evans Lionhead Studios
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