Are There Some Legible Texts That Even The World’s Most Sophisticated Robot Can’t Read?, #1–Introduction, & and The Logic of Legibility.

By Robert Hanna

“The only thing you absolutely have to know, is how to read.”
(Albert Einstein, slightly but relevantly misquoted.[i])

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Introduction

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1. Introduction

The strong thesis of artificial intelligence, aka the strong AI thesis, is the two-part thesis which says (i) that rational human minded animal intelligence can be explanatorily and ontologically reduced to Turing-computable algorithms and the operations of digital computers (aka the thesis of formal mechanism, as it’s applied to rational human minded animal intelligence), and (ii) that it’s technologically possible to build a digital computer that’s an exact counterpart of rational human intelligence, such that this machine not only exactly reproduces (aka simulates) all the actual performances of rational human intelligence, but also outperforms it (aka the counterpart thesis) (see, e.g., Block, 1980: part 3; Kim, 2011: ch. 6). If the strong AI thesis is true, then, at the very least, necessarily, some robot must be able to do anything that any ordinary rational human minded animal can do. Correspondingly, the standard strategy in the strong AI program is to start with some accomplishment, act, or task that any ordinary rational human minded animal can already achieve or perform, and then reverse-engineer a digital computer program and either a stationary digital computer or a mobile digital computer — a robot — that can perform the same accomplishment, act or task, at least as well as, or better than any ordinary rational human minded animal. Now, robots can do some things that no stationary digital computer can do. So, the leading question I’ve asked in the title of this essay is whether there some legible texts that we — i.e., ordinary rational human minded animals — can read, but even the world’s most sophisticated robot — can’t read? If so, then the strong AI thesis is false and the strong AI program is impossible.

2. The Logic of Legibility

Since it’s self-evidently true that you, the reader of this very sentence, are reading this very sentence, then we can safely assume that you already know how to read and also what reading is — at least, as the later Wittgenstein rightly puts it in the text quoted as the first epigraph of this essay, in a way that suffices for “the ordinary circumstances of our life,” even if the phenomenon of reading is philosophically “difficult to describe even in rough outline” (Wittgenstein, 1953: p. 61e, §§155–156).

NOTE

[i] The original quotation is: “The only thing you absolutely have to know, is how to locate the library.”

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Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.

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Mr Nemo

Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.