Saturday, January 9, 2010

Intelligence versus Motivation

Intelligence versus Motivation

A recurring idea is that machine intelligence will grow, then at some point when they have intelligence comparable to humans they will acquire motivation. We see this in sci-fi with robots being portrayed as similar to humans. Then it is suggested that humans will be replaced by intelligent machines. This is all rubbish.

Machines will never have motivation unless it is explicitly given to them. Anyone creating machines with motivation leading them to wish to survive and reproduce would be committing a terrible crime. And they would get it wrong and the motivation would not sustain a non-human civilization. Human motivation is an incredibly subtle thing, built as it is on the different but related motivation of our immortal genes.

You don't have to have significant intelligence to have motivation. The simplest creatures seek out food and avoid predation. If you try to claim that this isn't motivation then you are going to tie yourself in knots talking about what those creatures are doing and why. Also you would have to pick some dividing line between motivated and non-motivated creatures and there isn't anywhere to put that dividing line that isn't arbitrary. Indeed, as I claimed in the previous paragraph, our genes, which have no intelligence, have recognizable motivation. We say, for example, that our genes want us to survive and reproduce. Since they are the wellspring of motivation, this seems to be more than a metaphor.