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Why AI will never be conscious

In Searle’s article Minds, Brains and Programs he says that a computer program (like strong AI) will never have understanding. He gives the example of the Chinese Room and that the room will never understand Chinese because it only manipulates the symbols (a highly simplified explanation). In the article, he gives anticipates the counter arguments of his critics that a program will never truly understand. The fifth reply is given as:

“The other minds reply (Yale). How do you know that other people understand Chinese or anything else? Only by their behaviour. Now the computer can pass the behavioural tests as well as they can (in principle), so if you are going to attribute cognition to other people you must in principle also attribute it to computers.”

What this signifies, in simplified terms, is that once we build a computer that simulates the brain, why can we not say it is conscious, understands or has intentionality? Searle does not go very far with his answer and this is where I want to give my critique on his arguments and strong AI in general.

It is my argument that this problem cannot be solved because it is not a philosophical problem. It is a problem of language. Take the example:

The dolphin painted Mona Lisa.

You know this is not possible because there need to be “hands” to hold a brush, there needs to be “air” to dry the painting and a dolphin must live under water. Thus we can say with relative ease that claiming a dolphin painted Mona Lisa is impossible because it cannot be done. The words “painted/painting” cannot be linked to “dolphin”in this way, as the “doer” of the painting needs to have hands or it needs to be done on land etc. (This critique piece does not go into the problems of defining what art is, it is a simplified example.)

robot

Now the same can be said about the computer that simulates the brain or mind. It cannot be conscious, understand or have intentionality because all these words are defined with “things” not associated with a mechanical computer or programs. It might seem pedantic or unimportant, but saying a computer is “conscious” is, in a way, saying that a dolphin can make a painting. The problem is not that a computer cannot be conscious or understand; it may well have intentionality one day, but by describing the system in terms that we ascribe to humans, are giving computers anthropomorphic qualities.

My claim then is that we cannot give anthropomorphic terms to computers; it is an “abuse” of language and it creates the wrong connotations. My proposal is that new terms need to be given to the revolutions occurring in computer sciences. When computers first came into being, terms were created that are in everyday use today; the possibility of creating new terms for strong AI is not that impossible act. The act of anthropomorphizing computers seems odd in the age we are living.

The Legacy of Apartheid in Modern South Africa: Language Barriers

The word “apartheid” comes with a big, bad history and even worse connotations. No one wants to talk about it publicly for the fear of being scorned. With the eradication of apartheid, everyone lived in the euphoria of post-apartheid, but a lot of things got looked over. One of these things is the national language policy. South Africa boasts with pride about its 11 official languages, but it is not good enough to have these languages only on state documents. Implementing 11 official languages in a diverse country like South Africa turned out to be a disaster.

The majority of my articles on this website have concerned language problems in South Africa. It is a big problem, and it starts to eat at you when you know you can do nothing about it. It is a small problem in relation to hunger or infrastructure problems, yet it is the most fundamental thing to being human and being free. If you have a house that does not have electricity, water or even a roof, you are still free and a citizen of your country. But if your country does not provide services like education or medical help in a language you understand, it will feel like you are not a citizen of that country. If you do not understand the language that is spoken in your school or university, you are not going to achieve anything. Language is a barrier. Language can either help you, or kill all the chances you may get to have success in life.

If you don’t understand, how can you learn?” is a simple question asked by a study conducted by UNESCO. It is so simple it may even be absurd to think about it, or to argue about it. How can you learn in a language you do not understand? If you woke up one morning speaking the same English as the day before, but everyone around you started speaking French or Chinese, how would you survive? How will you get medical attention? How will you be educated or do your job? The sad fact is that, in South Africa, children in rural areas and townships get taught in English – a language they barely understand. They don’t hear it at home, or in the towns they live, they only hear English at school. They don’t pass because they don’t understand English, not because they couldn’t understand the content.

Post-apartheid South Africa has its problems. Equality is a major issue at the moment, as is proper housing, infrastructure and so on. The list may go on and on, but the problem underlying all of the above is education. If you don’t get proper education, you will never develop skills to help you get out of a bad situation. If you are from a township and you had access to education, but you did not pass your tests because your “education” was given in a second, almost foreign, language the chances that you will get a good paying job is slim. And this does not sit right. If language prevents you from getting a quality job, and not your mental capabilities, then the system must be broken.

The situation is not easy to solve. The implementation of African languages, like Xhosa, into the education system, should have been handled better post-1994. We cannot stand in 2016 and still blame the past; something must be done. “Keeping them [the population] uneducated will not allow them to escape from poverty, and people trapped in poverty are very easily manipulated,” said Richard Gruning. The legacy of apartheid is still being felt with inequality in language. South Africa has 11 official languages, but there is only one that is being used: English. In a country which has only 10% native speakers of English, its choice as the state language was obviously wrapped up with colonialism, but now one can only speculate about the reasons why it is used. It is not easy to get rid of this problem, but a practical way of helping is to get people talking; let’s start the discussion.

How sexism is entrenched in South Africa, or ‘Willene’s Thoughts: Part 1’

Call this what you want; a memoir, diary entry, a girl ranting, an open letter to the drunk Stellenbosch brah. I honestly don’t care, but I do feel like sharing this and possibly starting a series. So, let’s just call it Willene’s thoughts: Part 1

Let me tell you something that really ground my gears. A few months back I was walking hand-in-hand with my then boyfriend from a restaurant-bar, better known in Stellenbosch as Bohemia, to a club known as Catwalk. It was a quiet Monday evening and I was still wearing the same clothes I wore during the day. Puffy genie pants with a jacket and scarf to be exact. It is necessary to explain what I was wearing that night because, just in case you were wondering, I wasn’t dressed provocatively, a common excuse for unconsented behaviour for some reason (Which can I just comment is a joke.; what I wore should be completely irrelevant and useless information.) While we were walking two guys came stumbling towards us from the opposite direction. I didn’t think much of it. The one seemed raging drunk, which is a normality for Stellenbosch nightlife, and I thought it funny at the time, actually thinking how he reminded me of my boyfriend’s brother. When, at that very moment, he brushed past me and grabbed my breast in his passing. I was so shocked that I couldn’t form words and when I finally got the words out the stranger was already at a safe distance screaming: “Jah brah, I touched your cherry’s tit, what are you going to do about it.” His friend just stood by, doing absolutely nothing, while I dragged my boyfriend away, persuading him to drop it since the guy was too far away to pursue in any case. I was absolutely outraged and in my heart of hearts I wanted my boyfriend to beat the shit out of him, but instead I ignored it for the rest of the evening.

The next day I couldn’t shake what had happened. I felt violated, angry and disturbed at this stranger who had the audacity to grab at me while I was with my significant other, minding my own business not even dressed provocatively. Even if I was dressed provocatively, drunk and on my own he still wouldn’t have had the right to do what he did, but let’s face it, if that was the case I would have blamed myself. So what type of guy was that? If he had the audacity to do that with a girl walking with her boyfriend, what would he do to a girl who was walking alone, or to a girl who had too much to drink. I wouldn’t even put it past him to throw something in a girls drink. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me. The amount of times men have grabbed at me from behind while walking up stairs in a club is crazy. It’s a smart strategy. Walk with a group up the stairs and grab at the girl in front of you, when she turns around she can’t make out who it was, because of the amount of people. Then there was a time where I danced (Sokkie: South African folk partner dance) with a guy, and another guy cut in and in the process grabbed me from behind. I retaliated by slapping him. The rest of my evening was spoiled. Is there something I’m doing that makes guys think it’s okay to treat me like that? Is it the way I’m dressed? Is it the way I dance? Does it even matter?

I don’t even blame radical feminists at this stage. When women speak about equal rights the first response from most males are “Equal rights huh? That includes being allowed to hit woman back right?”. Not the right to equal pay, but the right to beat woman. Especially in the patriarchal Afrikaans houses. Basically it goes “He’s a guy, he can do what he wants but you my dear you need to respect yourself.” I have spoken to guys who have told me that they don’t want their girlfriend to smoke, all while smoking a cigarette. Another example is how many guys feel that they can sleep around but any potential girlfriend should ‘respect’ herself and not have a previous partner number higher than two, but that is already pushing it. I dated a guy who told me that if I had told him that I have slept with three guys before him, he wouldn’t have asked me out, or taken me seriously even though he himself has slept with a number of girls.

Let’s quickly look at the Brock Turner’s case. He wasn’t simply accused of raping a girl, he was stopped mid-rape by two other guys. It wasn’t a question of establishing the truth; but what did they ask her in court? “What were you wearing?”,  “How much did you drink?”, “Why were you going to this party?”, “You said you were a party animal?”. These are the type of questions girls get asked when we are assaulted. Apparently most guys are sex offenders, and if you dress inappropriately and drink too much then you are giving them permission to take advantage of you. In the rape case against Brock, he defends himself by saying he made a mistake by drinking excessively and that he wishes he never picked up a drink or spoke to his victim. How is that justified? So drinking might cause rape tendencies, shouldn’t there be a warning label on alcohol then? Warning: Excessive drinking may lead to rape. I discussed the case with my parents after telling them about the guy who grabbed at me. My mother agreeing how terrible and unfair this whole case is, and my father agreeing full-heartedly but remarking that the girl’s only mistake was that she was drunk. Hello white Afrikaans patriarchal father figure. So maybe he had a word vomit and didn’t mean it like that, but it sounded like he was saying drunk girls deserve to be raped because they were drunk in the first place. In all honesty at that moment I felt like if I were drunk and  were raped (God forbid), I would be too scared to tell my father, because I’d be terrified that he would blame me, because I was drunk. (To clarify, I love my dad, he is an amazing father but our opinions tend to clash.) This is not just my reality, but it is the reality for many girls out there; from my experience it is a very Afrikaans way of thinking.

It’s okay if guys drink, but not girls. You see, girls should respect themselves; we should wear promise rings, learn how to cook, and prepare ourselves to be pure blushing brides. Don’t be that girl who parties and who wears herself out, because yes guys need those girls. They have to get it out of their systems before settling down…

 

Free Education to Fight Back Crime In South Africa

My thesis is the following: Crime rates decrease drastically when education levels rise. If this premise is even partially correct, is it not an obligation to try and educate a nation? In a country like South Africa where crime rates seem to only climb year-on-year, the decrease in education is evident. The following article will thus be an argument why free education in the future may not be so bad, and may even be needed to counter the effect of crime.

 

In a study done by Alma Gonzalez (2015 New York University), the following finding was made:

  •  Results show that increased college graduation rates corresponds to a significant decrease in the crime rate. A 5% increase in the college graduation rate, for instance, produces an 18.7% reduction in the homicide rate.”

If this is possible in South Africa, the consequences of (good) education could have drastic results. In South Africa, the education level is 12.1%, which is not very high. If according to the above findings, education rates can improve crime rates, South Africa can improve its crime rates by educating more people. The math is simple, but the application of good education is where the problem lies. 

 

In 2012 some schools had no textbooks for more than seven months into the school year. How can one pass school if you don’t have textbooks? Resources are lacking and keeping most people back. This is not a problem that will be solved with this article or by any article or study. We can talk about the problems until who knows what point, but the solution will only come when people stand up against the “older ways” of doing things, and ask for “change”. A catch-22 situation arises: you need education to know when to stand up for education. 

 

A new movement in South Africa is on the tongue of most students: the “#feesmustfall” debate. Without focusing on too much of the details of the debate, you can see the potential something like free education in South Africa. If the movement succeeds in getting free education in South Africa for all, the start to fight back against crime can begin. The need to study and learn is widespread. A lot of poorer people end up stuck in cycles of crime because of a lack of education, and a common response amongst them is that they don’t want to be criminals, but that they need food. It is often seen as a last resort – be a criminal or die of hunger.

The need for education in South Africa is there, it is needed to fight back crime. Studies have shown countless times that education is a way to fight against crime. The student movement #feesmustfall is a perfect way to build up a stronger argument why education must not be so expensive. If education can be made accessible to most people, the crime rate will surely drop. But we don’t live in a utopian world where the application of simple ideas works. The struggle for education will continue until public money is spent correctly. Crime rates will keep on climbing if education does not become accessible for all.

South Africans, are we really free to vote for who we want?

Zygmunt Bauman, polish sociologists, says it best:

“There are two crucial values without which human life is simple [sic.] inconceivable. One is security, a measure of security, feeling safe. The other is freedom, ability to self-assert, to do what you really would like to do and so on. They are both necessary. Security without freedom is slavery. Freedom without security is complete chaos where you are lost, abandoned, you don’t know what to do.”

There are more complex ways of going into this, but for the everyday human on earth, freedom and security are things they cannot live without. But what does this have to do with South Africa and the elections coming up in August? This article is going to be an attempt to show how in South Africa we are, in a subtle way, restricted from voting freely; we have choices, but in the context of the recent past (i.e. apartheid) we are hugely restricted, consciously or otherwise. In a way, we are “pushed” toward a party with no other choice.

South Africa and apartheid go hand in hand for some people, but in the recent news, multiple political parties have tried to neutralise this political force, saying: “we cannot blame apartheid anymore.” You would think after 20 years of relative freedom the apartheid slogan would have fallen quicker, but it remains a huge influencing factor in modern South African voting patterns.

In South Africa, there are three major parties (and over 50 other lesser known parties): the ANC, the DA and the EFF. All of the previous mentioned have their problems, this article is not about criticising any party, or supporting any party in particular. This article is about trying to show how some people fell into a mentality of voting for a certain party and are ‘stuck’ inside of that mentality (even if the services they provide are not good enough for continued support).

The current president of South Africa has called the DA (Democratic Alliance) party “spawn of the National Party” (The NP was responsible for the apartheid regime), but is that statement even a valid statement to make in South Africa in this day and age? The people at the rally or speech will form an association of the DA party and the NP (an overwhelmingly negative connotation). They may now not vote for the DA almost purely because the president said the DA is the next NP. The choice of voting for the ANC is thus not based on sane reasoning on policy, but on political rhetoric and an arguably baseless association. The option to vote for who you want to is not free, it is not a conscious, autonomous decision.

If you look at the other side of the coin, the same problem arises. People voting for the DA are “brainwashed” with the speeches about how bad the ANC has been, and all the negative aspects about the current president. Political rhetoric and some “good deeds” before the election in poverty stricken areas help get them votes, these votes do not necessarily reflect real analysis of the idea that they would be a good governing party.  Many people claim that the majority of the DA voters are voting for them because there is no other option.

The question I want to ask is: Are we really free to vote for who we like? With only three major parties, the options are limited if you want your vote to be heard. With negative connotations hanging in the air, and political parties who gain votes by hate speech, are people making the vote they should? I cannot claim that South Africa is different from the rest of the world; the choice between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton is in many ways the same. What I am trying to stay is that the label of “freedom to vote for who you like” is maybe not as free as you might expect.

 

Language Loss is Identity Loss

Language is the most important and integral part of human existence. Without it the internet would not exist, economics would cease to function, our relationships with other would stop. Aristotle said humans are social animals, but also said that our essential distinguishing feature from other animals is that we use language to communicate. Language is the most important “tool” we have, but the problem is that language does not stay just a “tool”. Language is the vehicle for our emotions, the vehicle for patriotism and nationalism, hate crimes and racism; language is us. Identity is coupled with language. Jonathan Pool (1979) said that “identity influences language and language influences identity.” This statement will be the foundation of my argument. If we agree to this statement, we can conclude that language (especially your mother/home/first language) is crucial to the way you express yourself, to who you are. Your language is, in a way, who you are. You are yourself through your language. In Afrikaans, people tend to be more humble and modest, perhaps because the Afrikaans language tends to favour the “I’m sorry” clause when you ask someone something. In this piece, I will try and show how the loss of one’s first language is directly associated with the loss of one’s identity.

 

Today we are experiencing one of the worst casualties ever: with all the refugees moving away from their country, indirectly they are also moving away from their culture and language. If you are moving away from your country to a new place with a different language than your own, you will need to acquire the new country’s language to survive. This is not a new phenomenon. Learning a new language can bring forth endless new opportunities, for example acquiring English to study. The problem is when the newly acquired language is your only option, and you do not have an option. This is the problem refugees find themselves in, but also South Africans. When one looks at the numbers in South Africa, the “real” picture you get is scary, to say the least. The following statement can be found on a governmental website encouraging investment in South Africa:

 

“Today’s South Africa is one of the most sophisticated, diverse and promising emerging markets globally. Strategically located at the tip of the African continent, South Africa is a key investment location, both for the market opportunities that lie within its borders and as a gateway to the rest of the continent, a market of about 1- billion people.”

 

To have a successful country for people to invest in, you need it to be stable and have a good infrastructure, as well new young minds to take the country forward. If you just take a look at the numbers:

 

In 2002 a million grade ones entered the school year. After the first twelve years, only 500 000 remained. In 2015 of those who were still left tried to enter university. In South Africa, there is only place for around 20% of the 500 000. Do the math with the statistics given above: only about 50 000 moves on to second year of university. From the original one million children who started in 2002, only 5% will reach second year of university. Where does the rest go? What happens to them? Is this the foundation for a stable country and a good image for possible investors? Is this the way to build a country or destroy it?

 

To get back to language, there is one big factor looming behind the above-mentioned statistics: language. In South Africa, mentioned in some of my other pieces, the only two languages that offer education is English and Afrikaans (but the last mentioned is also on death row of education languages). If you are one of the 11 million who do not talk Afrikaans or English as first language, you will need to acquire (most likely) English. If you are, for argument sake, a Xhosa-speaking child in grade one, you will get second language English until grade three or four. After that, your education is in English. You can clearly see the problem: the children who need to get proper English education, do not get it until is too late. The main problem in education in South Africa (according to me) is that there is precisely no education. (A new study done in South Africa suggested that 40% of grade four learners can only read 40 words per minute in English, thus concluding “that they could not understand what they were reading”.)

 

The situation is something like this thus far: In South Africa, you need English (or in some places Afrikaans) to get into the university. Most people (at least 50%) of South Africa do not get any education in English (or sufficient English). If you move away from your home language to English to try and further your education, you move away from your culture and your identity in your language. I conclude with the following: If identity is attached to language, and in South Africa you need to move away from your language (i.e. your identity), are we not endorsing identity loss, cultural loss? Most people today still blame Afrikaans (and the connotations with the people talking the language) and apartheid for them not getting into university, and I am not saying that this is not the case, it can be so. But if we look at the problem of education today (not related to apartheid because it has been 20 plus years after it), can’t we rather blame the lack of education? In South Africa at the moment there is a hard choice that needs to be made: we need to choose English and lose the identities of so many people and cultures, or we need to seriously and quickly rethink the way we handle education in this country.

Jaco Louw Promo

South Africans Are Doing The Wrong Things For The Right Reasons

There is a difference between being immoral and amoral. Immoral seen as the opposite of being moral (if being moral means being “concerned with the principles of right and wrong behaviour”). Amoral is on the other side not really minding those principles of being wrong or right. The question can be asked: does nihilism lead to amoral behaviour, and the ultimately to immoral behaviour? In recent news students from various campuses around South Africa protested for numerous reasons (increased fees, outsourcing etc.) and left in the wake chaos. Statues of previously highly regarded figures were destroyed, paintings were burned and cars torched. On top of this 20 schools were burned down and 2500 matric students (grade 12) are missing class. This is our future. Youths do not get an education because schools are burned down for political reasons. Students who will be our future leaders, doctors, police, teachers burn down cars, art, buildings. If we cannot have something we burn it down. We are the short-sighted, myopic people of South Africa. In this piece, I will try and show how in South Africa there is a tendency to do something for the right reasons, but with the wrong measures. We need a political change in South Africa; voices were suppressed even after apartheid and people were not heard. But is the way we deal with these problems the right way to do it?

The South Africa of pre-1994 was the first in history to give over their power willingly, the first country who destroyed their own nuclear supplies, the first country to have 11 official languages. We are the country of reconciliation, of BEE (Black Economic Empowerment), of peace and loving care, of Ubuntu. We are the country where white and black and all the other come together around a braai (BBQ), drink a beer and laugh at the world… or so it seemed. Was this just the short-sighted view, the illusion that everything could work out smoothly after years of injustice? The “white” people brought money to Africa and made the “blacks” poor (Steve Biko’s words in one of his essays). But today we are here. We cannot go back and correct the past. We can just move on.

Nihilism is the idea that nothing has meaning, everything is meaningless. It is clear how immoral behaviour can come from this. The burning of 20 plus schools in May 2016 can be seen as a myopic and immoral act. We will burn down the schools (i.e. the future) to get what we want today (i.e. a political debate about under which municipality their land is governed by). The sad thing about it all is that nothing will happen. Life will go on (with 20 fewer schools) and things will remain the same. The country’s money will go into the wrong basket, houses will be built for the rich, the poor will get poorer, the rich richer. South Africa is the country that is blind, beyond myopia, acting before thinking.

This sounds like a lot of speculation. I can be accused of the same thing by writing this piece. But we need to look further. We need to look at the future. South Africa is a place of opportunity, but this is slowly fading because of a myopic view. We are looking at the present, we do not like what we see, and we burn it down. In South Africa, I claim, there is a big problem looming behind the smoke of the cars we burn because we don’t get what we want. Nihilism, the idea that nothing matters. Why do I need to wash the floor of a rich person who “stole my land”? Why do I need to work for a better South Africa if I myself will not be part of the future? It is useless, meaningless. The problem today in South Africa, I claim once again as my own view, is that we have a divide between those who want change, and those who enforce this change. We have a situation where the people who want this country to succeed cannot say something or do something because they are the minority, the marginalised. The people who instigate, enforce and bring on the “change”, those who throw petrol bombs, are those with the voice, and the myopic view. This will lead to nihilism, a feeling of meaninglessness, and this will cause immoral acts becoming the norm in South Africa.

What I tried to do in this piece is just to show that the way we bring on change in this country is not the right way. Burning down 20 schools is not going to bring on the change we want. We need change. We need people to stand up for what is right. We need the voice of the voiceless, the people who are forced to study in a foreign language, the people with no water to drink, those without food or homes. We need to listen to them, but burning down our future is not the way to go. It is short-sighted. It is a myopic outlook on the future and it will lead to immoral acts brought on by nihilism. We need to listen, we need to speak up, but we don’t want to see South Africa burn.

Jaco Louw Promo