Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Свежий Грей

According to the Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, every psychologist must at some point in his or her career write a sentence of the form: "The human being is the only animal that ----".

It is not only psychologists who feel impelled to write "the Sentence", as Brian Christian calls these statements of human uniqueness. Versions of the Sentence can be found scattered throughout the writings of theologians and atheists, rationalists and existentialists, revolutionaries and reactionaries and every sort of social and cultural theorist.

The attributes that are supposed to make human beings special have varied. Often those who insist that we belong in a different category from other animals fix on consciousness as the definitive human attribute. But other animals are not insensate automata, whatever Descartes may have liked to believe, and while we have intellectual abilities that other species lack, this is a difference in degree, not kind.

As Christian writes, "The story of humans' sense of self is, you might say, the story of failed, debunked versions of the Sentence." But this is only the starting point of his inquiry, for it is not other animals that are now threatening our sense of self. Belief in human uniqueness is being challenged by machines that we have invented.

As they become increasingly proficient in performing intellectual tasks, computers are shrinking the range of activities that can be claimed to be exclusively human. The sense that we are special is diminishing, and there are many who fearhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif it could eventually disappear altogether.

But could it? In this lively and thought-stirring reconsideration of the matter, Christian suggests that the rise of computers might enhance our understanding of what it is to be human. The opposite of a technophobe, he believes artificial intelligence can enrich human life - not least by illuminating what is distinctive about human intelligence.

Giving the reader a thorough ...читать дальше


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