Deus Malignus – The Digital Rehabilitation of Deception

In: Artificial Intelligence
Walther Ch. Zimmerli
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One of the main questions implied in what we today call “digitalization” is not what happens, when computers (or in our case: when robots) think but rather if it makes sense to talk of computers, robots, or any kind of machines as if they were capable of thinking. Or formulated in a still different way: Does it make sense to call machines “intelligent”? It goes without saying that the locus classicus of this question has been Alan Turing’s pathbreaking article on “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”, published 1950 in Mind . What I will be dealing with in what follows will therefore just have the status of some philosophically orientated modest footnotes to the main idea of Alan Turing. These footnotes will be developed in five steps: Before even entering the arena of Robots and Artificial Intelligence I will try to open up a space for thorough reflection which will enable us to discuss these issues by not following the beaten track. In order to do that we will first of all ask whether “bullshit makes sense” by critically dealing with “the Digital”, a notion taken for granted by almost everybody (1), and by then asking the seemingly very pedestrian question as to how intelligent the CIA is (2). This then will set the scene for reminding us of a very influential argument in early modern sceptical rationalist philosophy: Descartes’ “Deus” or “Genius Malignus” argument (3). From there it will be easy to proceed to an important but often neglected implication of the “Turing test” (4) culminating in a revision and rehabilitation of one of the most abhorred concepts of modern science and philosophy: deception (5), thus launching what I would like to call an “anti-Cartesian experiment”.

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Artificial Intelligence

Reflections in Philosophy, Theology, and the Social Sciences