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Cindy Shaw <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Thu, 5 Feb 1998 00:22:53 -0800
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Emil Huston wrote:

> The following quote should be read only by people who can imitate Emil's heavy
> East European accent (close enough to the East Indian one..)
> "There is more to life than increasing speed"
> Mohandas Gandhi

Hi Emil -

Glad to see you have more time on your hands these days (g). With that
in mind, I thought you might enjoy this exchange of listserv chitchat
from some colleagues across the drink.

The following should be read only by people who can imitate Monte Python
and Margaret Thatcher's heavy British accents.



>From time to time esoteric items are raised at our various meetings and
get-togethers that prompt correspondence and emails.  These are rarely
learned pontifications but more whatever came into some cartographers
mind whilst they were in the shower. However, these asides have often
to more formal research and design projects if we feel that the subject
needs further investigation.


Alan Collinson Design Group Co Convenor


As you know there is no such thing as an expert system, just as there
be no such thing as artificial intelligence. Electronic impulses can't
think. It was a philosopher called Sharp I believe, who invented the
paradigm 'Squiggle, Squiggle, Squoggle, Squoggle' What he meant was that
a computer is programmed to respond to commands and no more, it has no
understanding of what those commands mean. Even in those cases where it
is programmed to learn from itself. If it gets a command
squiggle-squiggle, its response is squoggle-squoggle, but it does not
know there is a difference between sqiggle and squoggle. There was a
little game I used to play to illustrate this.  A small chessboard with
four or five squares on each side was used by counters from opposing
sides. The object was to get your counter to the other end without being
stalled. Each counter could move in a number of directions at will, and
set of match boxes was used with the moves written inside. By one simple
device this 'computer can never be beaten. Of the moves possible at each
stage you take out the final move which lost so that it can never make
that move again. Bit by bit only winning combinations are left. The
computer has become 'intelligent', but if this is intelligence I'm a
However I am aware that greater minds than mine have come to the


I was intrigued by your squiggles, one day you will have to show me your
chess game. By my reckoning the computer would eventually discount every
move and decide the only safe option was not to move at all. Much the
same as cartography has.

I smiled when I read that there can be no such thing as artificial
intelligence because electronic impulses can't think :-) On the
thought is nothing more than electronic impulses, and all intelligence
naturally occurring and self propagating. Chew on that one.


When we were writing about artificial intelligence you said
"I smiled when I read that 'there can be no such thing as artificial
intelligence because electronic impulses can't think' . On the contrary,
thought is nothing more than electronic impulses, and all intelligence
naturally occuring and self propagating."

Come off it Sunshine! Whatever thought is, it is a gread deal MORE than
electronic impulses. There may be an arguement in favour of artificial
intelligence but this isn't it. And surely your second proposition 'that
it's all natural and self propagating' excludes any possibility of the
artificial. My opinion may be wrong but crap thinking like this will
never prove it.  (OOps! poke in the eye and knee in the goolies next
we meet?)


And now, Mr. Know-It-All, just who do you accuse of "crap thinking"??!!
Big Sigh.  I wonder if Einstein ever suffered the ignorance of fools.

 Read it again and think about it this time.  :-)

You said "there is no such thing as artificial intelligence because
electronic impulses can't think" and I replied that "thought is nothing
more than electronic impulses, and all intelligence is naturally
and self propagating."

I'm not sure I could make it any clearer.  What I was hoping to
was the irony that the "artificial" intelligence of computers is not
artificial but is instead a natural product of human intelligence.

In the human brain one thought is followed by another thought, with the
connecting string being human experience.  That is why I think of Bram
Stoker when I see the OS crossed off your Christmas card list  (nice
by the way!).  The thing which separates human thought from computer
is the ability for humans to have original thoughts by linking
unrelated thoughts.  And more than that, the ability to recognise a
thought from a nonsensical thought.  (...maybe I should stop now!)

The human existence is conditioned and moulded by cause and effect - an
easy enough concept for a computer to understand.  Computers can be
to use their limited experiences to react in the most appropriate way to
unfamiliar circumstances.  So can you not imagine that in 30 years we
see the creation of computers with the capacity for real thought, not
artificial intelligence?  And perhaps, one day, computers with the
to propagate original thoughts from those thoughts we implanted in them?

And as you found at your party, humans have the ability to build not
on their own experience, but also the experience of previous

Imagine how much more quickly a computer could learn with access to a
global database of human experience like the internet.

I have no doubt that you think original thought requires more than
electrical impulses?  Next I'll be trying to persuade you that the soul
nothing more than a chemical imbalance.  ;-)

It makes me want to go and read Douglas Adams.


The connecting string between thoughts being human experience is also a
good way of putting it, but I am still unsure about your idea that the
thing which separates human thought from computer logic is the ability
link previously unrelated thoughts. For two reasons. Human experience is
not the same as linking previously unrelated thoughts, and, to my mind,
to jump from this to the assumption that when a computer is bringing
together unrelated things, it is having thoughts, is to move the
goalposts very decidedly in the computers favour.  It is not as though I
have a fear that computers will eventually surplant my feeble reasoning
capacity. I love these things that can do things I can't do, and can do
the things I can do a 1000 times the speed. But that is not the issue.
Computers will not, as you suggest, be able to propagate thoughts in
thirty years time from the thoughts we implanted in them because what we
inplanted were not thoughts.

Again you do the same thing with cause and effect. True this can easily
be juggled by a computer, but surely human experience is not conditioned
and moulded by merely this. My feeling is that there other factors which
mould us which relegate cause and effect to the sidelines.
If this is all human existence is then, to be sure, a computer can
it after a fashion, (cause, an impulse; effect, a discharge) but in
to compare this with real human existence the goalposts have to be so
narrow that only an ant could squeeze through.

What about the Desire, the Will, what about fear, what about Love, what
about Bruce's spider.
And above all, what about haggis neaps and tatties for tea. I would do
anything for a plateful right now, not just because of what they taste
like but for the emotions and images they invoke in me. Once I have had
them I want to become world curling champion, throw the caber, walk the
Royal Mile and hold my kilt above my head. This is thinking, this is
human experience motivating future outcomes. This is the Bram Stoker

I gave my computer a haggis and it threw up!

As for the soul, lets not get into that one or we will be here for ever.
One thing I know above all else. Computers have no souls. Just at the
moment you say to yourself "Please don't crash now" They do.





Food for thought, hey?

Emil, do you know what "goolies", "tatties", and "haggis neaps" are?