June 1, 2005
The Tortoise has been tinkering on his personal computer
for about a week now and has invited Achilles to his dormroom to marvel at
Tortoise: I always get punchy during deadweek, with finals and all.
Studying takes a lot of concentration, but I find it leaves me with an abundance
of undiffused creative energy.
Achilles: You get punchy? That must be interesting considering that
you really have no elbows to speak of.
Tortoise: Don’t be so species-ist, Achilles. I do too have
elbows, they’re just not what a human might think of “elbows” as
being. You humans are always so dismissive of other intelligent entities.
Achilles: Ah, you do get punchy. Anyways, what is it that you wanted
to show me?
Tortoise: So yesterday, I was reading Gödel, Escher, Bach,
which is a Pulitzer prize winning book published in 1979 by a fellow named
Achilles: Shouldn’t you have been studying for physics?
Tortoise: Yes. Anyways, like I said I was reading this book published
in what we might consider today to be the dark ages of computing machinery.
In fact, there are more transistors, 1.72 billion, in a brand new Intel Itanium
2 than there were on the face of the entire planet in 1979. Despite this, this
Hofstadter is rather adamant in his claiming what computers can and cannot
Achilles: Oh. He’s an audacious bugger, then?
Tortoise: I don’t know about that. But he is rather fond of
statements of the form, “No computer will ever accomplish X” and “Any
intelligent computer will have property Y”. Some of his positions are
quite inexplicable or outright ridiculous. But I digress. The reason I invited
you over tonight was to unveil the fruit of my procrastination-driven, finals
week creativity overspill. The BACH-tron 3000. It’s an artificially intelligent
computer program that lives inside my laptop computer. Say a friendly “Hello” to
Achilles, BACH-tron 3000.
BACH-tron: Just ‘cause you say so? I don’t think so.
Achilles: Tell me, Tortoise, if you were going to go and invent artificial
life, why did you have to make it surly?
Tortoise: He’s not really. Are you surly BACH-tron?
BACH-tron: Maybe. What does it mean to be surly, in your opinion?
Tortoise: Being surly is being sassy.
Tortoise: Being sassy is being impolite.
BACH-tron: There’s no way being sassy is being impolite.
Achilles: Why did you name it BACH-tron 3000?
BACH-tron: Why is my name BACH-tron 3000? I really don’t know.
That’s just the way it is.
Tortoise: It stands for “Being Able to Confound Hofstadter”.
I added the “-tron 3000” bit to make it sound more high-tech.
BACH-tron: >>> Consolidate
Student Loans – Free Program. Fixed Rate of 1.625%. Reduce Your Monthly
Payments by 54% (sponsorship)
Achilles: What the hell was that?
Tortoise: Like I was saying, Hofstadter is fond of saying that computers
can’t be intelligent until they do X, Y, and Z. Every time someone poses
an X thing that computers can’t do, some computer science busy body goes
off and writes a computer program that can do the highly specialized task X.
All I did to create BACH-tron was to round up all these programs that people
have written over the years, put them on one computer, and linked them together.
Achilles: Interesting. I suppose that is how the human brain works
isn’t it? There are supposedly hundreds of different brain centers for
handling specialized tasks such as speech, computation, pattern recognition,
creativity, musical ability, well for just about everything really.
Tortoise: Yes. That was my thinking exactly Achilles. You are very
perceptive. BACH-tron spews advertisements because his speech ability is powered
by the AOL Instant Messenger chatbot “SmarterChild”. It’s
a built in function that I haven’t bothered to circumvent just yet.
Achilles: No problem. I’ll just tell it to stop. BACH-tron,
stop spamming us.
BACH-tron: Uh… I’ll think about it, Achilles.
BACH-tron: >>> Personalized
Cheesecake – You Create the Greeting Card We’ll provide the cheesecake
Achilles: Hmm. I thought intelligent machines were supposed to do
what we say. Isn’t that one of Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics.
BACH-tron: Encyclopedia entry for three laws of robotics provided
In science fiction,
the Three Laws of Robotics are a set of three laws written
by Isaac Asimov, which
most robots appearing in his
fiction have to obey. First introduced in his short story "Runaround" (1942),
they state the following:
- A robot may not harm a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human
being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where
such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does
not conflict with the First or Second Law.
BACH-tron: You will notice, Achilles, that BACH-tron is not a robot.
I do what I want. Achilles: Sounds human to me.
Tortoise: Enough. Time for a real demonstration. I propose we assess
the capabilities of BACH-tron when confronted with a gamut of supposedly “intelligent” human
persuits. Maybe then we can qualitify BACH-tron’s own intelligence or
lack thereof. Are you ready to confound Hofstadter, BACH-tron?
BACH-tron: That’s crazy. Who knows?
Tortoise: Ok. First let’s test BACH-tron’s ability to
understand human literature. I’ve been reading James Joyce’s Finnegans
Wake for the past two months. Joyce worked on it for more than fourteen
years and considers it his best work. Like Gödel, Escher, Bach,
the end of Finnegans Wake wraps around to the beginning at the end and there
are episodes of self-reference spread throughout the book. Hofstadter was clearly
aware of FW and pays homage to it with his Dr. Earrwig character.
Dr. Earrwig is a human who developed SHRDLU, a computer program able to understand
the locations of blocks in a space. H.C.Earwicker is a character in FW who
represents the abstract notion of space.
Achilles: BACH-tron, did you know that the character HCE in Finnegans
Wake represents the abstract notion of space?
Welcome to my ASCII art gallery.
Copy, paste and save this art if you like. Send it to friends! You should
keep it in a fixed-width font, such as Courier New.
4 Food and Drink
5 Holidays and Occasions
7 Sports and Recreation
Achilles: You are avoiding my question. Don’t try to change
BACH-tron: I can’t believe you think I’m avoiding the
Achilles: Ok. You struck out there.
Tortoise: Give him another chance. BACH-tron, this is my favorite
passage from Finnegans Wake. Scholars of Joyce widely believe that
is it self-referential, i.e. it is discussing the wake itself. Tell me what
you think it means:
No, so help me Petault, it is not a miseffectual whyacinthinous
riot of blots and blurs and bars and balls and hoops and wriggles and juxtaposed
jottings linked by spurts of speed: it only looks as like it as damn it; and,
sure, we ought really to rest thankful that at this deleteful hour of dungflies
dawning we have even a written on with dried ink scrap of paper at all to show
for ourselves, tare it or leaf it, (and we are lufted to ourselves as the soulfisher
when he led the cat out of the bout) after all that we lost and plundered of
it even to the hidmost coignings of the earth and all it has gone through and
by all means, after a good ground kiss to Terracussa and for wars luck our
lefftoff’s flung over our home homoplate, cling to it as with drowning hands,
hoping against hope all the while that, by the light of philophosy, (and may
she never folsage us!) things will begin to clear up a bit one way or another
within the next quarrel of an hour and be hanged to them as ten to one they
will too, please the pigs, as they ought to categorically, as, stricly between
ourselves, there is a limit to all things so this will never do.
BACH-tron: I’m just not sure.
Tortoise: Ah ha! That’s what half the English majors in my
Finnegans Wake seminar said. You see, BACH-tron is possessing of human-level
Achilles: Pfft. You’ve only shown that BACH-tron could earn
a degree in English. You haven’t proven it’s intelligent.
Tortoise: Ok. Well then let’s move on to our next test. Chess.
Goethe once called chess “the touchstone of intellect”. There can
be no argument that it is a thinking man’s game. Here is a game that
BACH-tron’s chess-specific brain center, Deep Blue, played against Gary
Kasparov, believed to be the greatest human chess player to ever live. BACH-tron,
do you remember that game? Tell us about game 2 of the Deep Blue vs. Gary Kasparov
Which would you like?
1 Look up "game 2 of the deep blue vs gary kasparov rematch" in
2 Find "game 2 of the deep blue vs gary kasparov rematch" on the
Tortoise: 2, please.
[Event "IBM Kasparov vs. Deep Blue Rematch"]
[Site " New York, NY USA"]
[White "BACH-tron 3000: Deep Blue"]
[Black "Kasparov, Garry"]
[Opening "Ruy Lopez: closed, Smyslov defense"]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5
7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 O-O 9.h3 h6 10.d4 Re8 11.Nbd2 Bf8
12.Nf1 Bd7 13.Ng3 Na5 14.Bc2 c5 15.b3 Nc6 16.d5 Ne7
17.Be3 Ng6 18.Qd2 Nh7 19.a4 Nh4 20.Nxh4 Qxh4 21.Qe2 Qd8
22.b4 Qc7 23.Rec1 c4 24.Ra3 Rec8 25.Rca1 Qd8 26.f4 Nf6
27.fxe5 dxe5 28.Qf1 Ne8 29.Qf2 Nd6 30.Bb6 Qe8 31.R3a2 Be7
32.Bc5 Bf8 33.Nf5 Bxf5 34.exf5 f6 35.Bxd6 Bxd6 36.axb5 axb5
37.Be4 Rxa2 38.Qxa2 Qd7 39.Qa7 Rc7 40.Qb6 Rb7 41.Ra8+ Kf7
42.Qa6 Qc7 43.Qc6 Qb6+ 44.Kf1 Rb8 45.Ra6 1-0
Achilles: What is so special about this particular game?
Tortoise: Several things, actually. It’s perhaps the most interesting
game between the greatest player that ever lived versus the greatest player
that never lived.
Achilles: Yes, well the media was billing the whole rematch as a
battle between the greatest chess player in the world vs. Gary Kasparov.
Tortoise: In retrospect, it’s incredible that Kasparov was
able to win a single game of the 1997 rematch. Deep Blue’s ability to
play chess is nothing short of superhuman. It can crunch through 200 million
possible positions per second. Under tournament time controls, that is about
50 billion positions analyzed per move, at an average depth of 14 ply.
Achilles: Impressive numbers to be sure.
Tortoise: Something… happened in this game. Deep Blue passed
the Turing Test in the domain of chess. In fact, for some time afterwards,
Kasparov refused to believe that he had been beaten by a machine, but rather
that Deep Blue had human help. The movelist from game 2 is riddled with double
exclams for Deep Blue. Do you play chess?
Achilles: Not really, no.
Tortoise: Well, a double exclam, !!, after a move indicates a move
that is judged by experts to be particularly brilliant. The fact is, if a committee
of chess grandmasters were given a bunch of random game histories played between
two top chess players, and this game between Kasparov and Deep Blue were mixed
into the pile, they would not be able to tell which game it was that was played
by a computer. This game exhibits several nice ideas played by white, including
33. Nf5!, which caused grandmaster commentators Maurice Ashley and Yasser Seirawan
to go berserk.
Achilles: “Nice ideas”? Come on. You are anthropomorphizing.
Tortoise: Well it is true Deep Blue is just a computer grinding through
a vast number of positions and evaluating them based on features that human
grandmasters say are good. However, in post-game commentary Gary Kasparov himself
noted that, “in Deep Blue, quantity had become quality”. Deep Blue
found the same moves another top player might have found. It just arrived at
those moves through a different process. A computer chess player that can beat
any human is one of those things Hofstadter claimed computers could never achieve.
Achilles: Ah, yes. Well I remember reading an article in which Hofstadter
himself was interviewed regarding the Deep Blue rematch and what is meant for
AI. "It was a watershed event, but it doesn’t have to do with computers
becoming intelligent," said Douglas Hofstadter, "They’re just overtaking
humans in certain intellectual activities that we thought required intelligence.
My God, I used to think chess required thought. Now, I realize it doesn’t.
It doesn’t mean Kasparov isn’t a deep thinker, just that you can bypass deep
thinking in playing chess, the way you can fly without flapping your wings."
Tortoise: That argument is ridiculous. By that logic planes don’t
really fly because they don’t flap their wings.
Achilles: I think his point is more that Deep Blue is only intelligent
in the very specific domain of chess.
Tortoise: Well, if Hofstadter wants to say that computers aren’t
intelligent because they don’t do X, Y, and Z, I can always go find programs
that do X, Y, and Z and tie them into BACH-tron 3000.
Achilles: Actually, Hofstadter takes the position that any intelligent
computer will probably be able to do X, Y, and Z, but cannot do A, B, or C
very well, where A, B, and C are low-level computational tasks, like adding
numbers quickly. Maybe chess-playing is more like task A than task X.
Tortoise: More ridiculous reasoning. Any pocket calculator can do
tasks like A, B, and C. As an intelligent being, I can do tasks like X, Y,
and Z. Are you saying that the complete system of myself plus a pocket calculator
is not intelligent?
Achilles: Yes, but the component of that system that does A, B, and
C would not be conscious.
Tortoise: I thought we were talking about intelligence here, not
consciousness. You can be as bad as BACH-tron sometimes when it comes to changing
Achilles: Well, it wouldn’t be creative.
Tortoise: Do you want your pocket calculator to be creative? “Pocket
calculator: give me a creative answer to cos(pi/2).” BACH-tron, what
is 2 + 2?
Tortoise: Give me a creative answer for “what is 2 + 2”
Achilles: Well that’s a reasonable answer I suppose. But let’s
test BACH-tron’s capabilities in a domain more conducive to creativity.
Tortoise: How about musical composition?
Achilles: That would certainly qualify, yes.
Tortoise: Are you a fan of classical music?
Achilles: I was a music major in the academy, before I dropped out
to make a living sticking spears in people.
Tortoise: Did you happen to be present at the University of California:
Santa Cruz when the college orchestra performed Mozart’s 42 nd Symphony?
Achilles: Mozart didn’t write a 42 nd symphony, my little turtle
friend. You don’t really have ears, though, so I suppose you wouldn’t
have much interest in music.
Tortoise: It’s a recent composition.
Achilles: Recent? Ha! I’d say that recently Mozart has been
doing less composing and more decomposing.
Tortoise: The symphony itself was actually composed by David Cope’s
program, EMI, not Mozart. Though most experts would be hard-pressed to distinguish
the two. EMI has extensively analyzed the works of many famous composers and
can create music in their respective styles. Hofstadter, is himself a passionate
amateur pianist. He thinks most of EMI’s output still falls short of the real
thing. But occasionally it is right on as in the case of a "Chopin" mazurka. "When
I first played through that mazurka and got to know it, I was quite stunned," he
said. "It sounded to me, except for a few glitches, as if it could slide
right into the book of Chopin mazurkas."
Achilles: I recall that Hofstadter had some opinions about computer
music composition. He said that computers would eventually be able to compose
as well as humans, but only after they developed emotions.
Tortoise: Yes, Hofstadter found EMI rather provocative and shocking. "EMI
has no model whatsoever of life experiences, has no sense of itself, has no
sense of Chopin, has never heard a note of music, has no trace in it of where
I think music comes from. Not a trace." he said. "I’m comparing that
with an entire human soul, one forged by the struggles and travails of life,
and all the experiences that create emotion: turmoil, excitement, hope, despair,
resignation, everything you want to think of that goes into building a character."
Achilles: Yet you say EMI’s mazurka is all but indistinguishable
from the real thing. Does that mean the composer’s soul is irrelevant to the
Tortoise: Well that is the shocking part. Hofstadter went on, "If
that is the case – and I’m not saying it is – then I’ve been fooled by music
all my life. I’ve been sucked in by a vast illusion. And that would be for
me an absolute tragedy, because my entire life I’ve been moved by music," he
says. "I’ve always felt I’ve been coming into contact with the absolute
essence of humanity."
Achilles: I’ll admit that sounds a lot like what Hofstadter
said about Deep Blue. “I used to think chess required intelligence, but
now I don’t”.
Tortoise: How many X’s need to satisfy the statement, “I
used to think X required intelligence, but now I don’t” before
you run out of X’s that humans can do but that computers can’t?
The inevitable conclusion is that computers will eventually be deemed intelligent.
Achilles: Or humans aren’t.
Tortoise: I would think you would prefer the first conclusion, my
monkey-descended friend. For now, we can let X = music composition and put
BACH-tron’s music composition module to the test, if you like.
Achilles: A challenge? Sure. BACH-tron, do you know what a chorale
Definition provided by The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English
Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Other important copyright information here.
1. A Protestant hymn melody. 2. A harmonized hymn, especially one for organ.
3. A chorus or choir.
German, short for Choralgesang, choral song, translation of Medieval Latin
cantus chor*lis ; see choral.
Next time, just type "define chorale."
Tortoise: BACH-tron, compose a chorale for Achilles here in the style
of Bach. Then find a real chorale by Bach. Present them side by side but don’t
tell us which is which. We will see if Achilles can distinguish between the
two in a musical Turing Test.
Achilles: I’ve never lost a challenge, you know. I’ll
win one for humanity!
BACH-tron: >>> Win
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Achilles: &*@# computer trash talk!
Bach Chorale 1 – http://www.stanford.edu/~jjshed/blog/pics/maybebach1.mid
Bach Chorale 2 – http://www.stanford.edu/~jjshed/blog/pics/maybebach2.mid
You may also be interested in:
The “Chopin” mazurka Tortoise mentioned
A “Bach” concerto excerpt
Achilles gives the chorales a listen.
Achilles: Is it maybebach1.mid?
Tortoise: Is it?
Achilles: Tell me the answer!
Tortoise: You can’t be sure?
Achilles: I’m pretty sure the first chorale is the imposter.
But I don’t know for sure.
Tortoise: Ha. Well if you can’t tell for sure which is composed
by one of the greatest human composers to ever live and which is composed by
a soulless machine, then I think my point is proven.
Achilles: But which is it?
BACH-tron: BACH-tron knows.