Computers that can argue will be satnav for the moral maze

 作者:余蒡     |      日期:2019-02-27 12:01:02
Morgan Schweitzer By Gilead Amit IN DOUGLAS ADAMS’S novel Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, a computer program called Reason can retroactively justify any decision, providing an incontrovertible argument that whatever was decided was the right thing to do. The software proves so successful that the Pentagon buys it lock, stock and barrel, shortly before a dramatic increase in public approval of military spending. We’re not quite there yet. Machines may have beaten us at remorselessly logical games like chess and Go, and they are increasingly giving us a run for our money at games of bluff and chance like poker. But no computer has ever come close to beating humans where it counts: in an argument. Were one ever able to do so, it isn’t just the ears of the military that would prick up. The first wave of artificial intelligence, able to crunch huge amounts of information and spot interconnections ever more efficiently, gave us search engines such as Google. A machine capable of formulating an argument – not just searching information, but also synthesising it into more or less reasoned conclusions – would take the search engine to the next level. Such a “research engine” could aid decision-making in arenas from law to medicine to politics. And with an array of ongoing projects looking to build an argumentative streak into AI, it seems only a matter of time before we’ll be testing our mettle against silicon here, too. Arguing is something humans are peculiarly good at. From polite disagreements over the dinner table to vein-popping run-ins over a parking space or presidential politics,