“Dallying Automata Music” is the name of the personal publishing company under which my more recent compositions are registered with ASCAP. I took so long picking the name that when it came time to title this blog I figured I wouldn’t do much better the second time around.
The idea behind it is a bit of a cognitive science joke. A “joke” in that it’s not a wholly serious theory, a “bit” in that it’s not particularly funny. Like most academic humor.
One life-sucking question that haunts a number of discussions in artificial intelligence is how to know when such an intelligence is sufficiently humanlike. Many people will have heard of Turing tests or Searle’s Chinese Room thought experiment, which are representative of the concerns if not the level of detail of subsequent work. Most of these conversations revolve around questions about consciousness and when a machine can be said to understand a problem (rather than just spitting out numbers). The assumption is that these are the defining characteristics that separate human from machine. That we manipulate our thoughts with self-driven and self-aware purpose and understanding that is qualitatively different from number crunching.
Armchair philosophizingly, I question whether these are the most important distinctions. It seems to me that a great deal of what makes us human is our tendency toward play and procrastination, our ability to find delights and distractions as rewarding as anything more objectively purpose-driven. Play is a universal aspect of human cognitive development and behavior, and there aren’t as many of those as you might think. Play involves a range of cognitive abilities. In a not-yet-ready-to-formalize-it kind of way, I’d like to suggest that the ability to invent a game out of a simple task is a better representation of intelligence than the ability to fool agents in a chatroom. The products of current artificial intelligence research are pretty cool, and computers are undeniably making great strides in translation and other important areas. But it’s the automata that are capable of dallying that I’m waiting for.