(Lack) Of Ideas and (Insufficient) Data

Where shall we to begin to unravel the drivel in the paper by Roszak. Let’s start with his use of language… humans have minds and think… with no “quotes” on the words. Computers are “data processors” which “regurgitate” from “memory” with heavy use of quotes. Their proponents are “data merchants” – you can almost hear him spit as he says it – and they promulgate a “cult of information” – my quotes. Human memory is the “invisible psychic adhesive” – give me a break.

Then we get pages on “ideas” which humans “think” about, and how those differ from what “computers” can “process” – and Rosak helpfully explains that these are generalization mechanisms based on experience of more or fewer instances. Pity he seems to not know about explanation based generalization systems in computers which have worked for many years to find and refine categories in the taxonomies in many knowledge-based systems, and then used to great effect to advance scientific knowledge in astronomy, genetics and drug discovery. These systems have been around for well over three decades, so if he was speaking about generalisation, you think he could have looked it up (suggested keywords: “computer” “AI” “generalization”). But then again perhaps (neo-)luddites cannot do proper research if it involves using computers.His poor use of the Logo Poetry generator program, which included an element to ensure some randomizing phrases and vocabulary was introduced into the generated poems, was introduced as his example to illustrate the level of computer “simulation” of human “originality”. This really is such a poorly related example I could not believe it got through peer review even in a philosophy paper.

He begins to go off into the void with references to the self reflection and how the mind is such a wonderful thing because it cannot fully model itself… but can (of course) completely understand its own creations. He asserts that it is “impossible to invent a machine that will be the mind’s equal”. Well maybe we can try to go for “mind” rather than mind and we might succeed. He does like his “quotes”.

Roszak, T., (1994) “Of Ideas and Data” from Roszak, T., The cult of information : a neo-Luddite treatise on high tech, artificial intelligence, and the true art of thinking pp.87-107, University of California Press.

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