19 December 2004

Must be a slow week in academia

I, Plaintiff
Via /. is an utterly surreal article in Legal Affairs about granting legal rights to AI computers:
To Bernstein, all that the plaintiff's counsel had demonstrated was that BINA48 could simulate consciousness (perhaps more effectively than many 1-800 operators) but she had failed to show that a computer could "actually cross the line between inanimate objects and human beings."
To me, Mr. Bernstein has not even demonstrated the ability to simulate consciousness by engaging in such solipsism. Really, I see no distinction between Mr. Bernstein's position and the hypothetical "what if everyone else isn't really conscious but are merely simulacra" beyond the fact that there are no self-aware machines yet. I will agree that Turing tests are largely pointless, however, but that's because humans often fail them (sometimes in hilarious ways), not because computers can 'fake it'.

A precious case from Middle Earth

Via BoingBoing, the British Medical Journal has a psychiatric analysis of Gollum:
Several differential diagnoses need to be considered, and we should exclude organic causes for his symptoms. A space occupying lesion such as a brain tumour is unlikely as his symptoms are long standing. Gollum's diet is extremely limited, consisting only of raw fish. Vitamin B-12 deficiency may cause irritability, delusions, and paranoia. His reduced appetite and loss of hair and weight may be associated with iron deficiency anaemia. He is hypervigilant and does not seem to need much sleep. This, accompanied by his bulging eyes and weight loss, suggests hyperthyroidism. Gollum's dislike of sunlight may be due to the photosensitivity of porphyria. Attacks may be induced by starvation and accompanied by paranoid psychosis.
In the end, however, they settle on schizoid personality disorder.

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