If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

Tag: intelligence

Mary Shelley – Frankenstein (1818)

“When younger,” said he, “I believed myself destined for some great enterprise. My feelings are profound; but I possessed a coolness of judgment that fitted me for illustrious achievements. This sentiment of the worth of my nature supported me when others would have been oppressed; for I deemed it criminal to throw away in useless grief those talents that might be useful to my fellow-creatures.”

Alan Lightman – Mr. g (2012)

“We have learned something about what a material mind is capable of,” said Belhor. “It is capable of great goodness, and also great evil. And more extreme in either case than I would have thought. But that is what happens with intelligence.”

“Is it a consequence of intelligence, or materiality?” I said. “Because we have even greater intelligence.”

Belhor smiled and said nothing.

Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

People tend to think that only extreme versions of things pose deep problems. That’s why few people see modeling the creativity of, say, the trite television character of Archie Bunker as a difficult task. It’s strange and disorienting to realize that if we could write a program that could compose Muzak or write trashy novels, we would be 99 percent of the way to mechanizing Mozart and Einstein. Even a program that could act like a mentally retarded person would be a huge advance. The commonest mental abilities—not the rarest ones—are still the central mystery.

Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

…At this point, many critics of computers and artificial intelligence, eager to find something that “computers can’t do” (and never will be able to do) often jump too far: they jump to the conclusion that art and, more generally, creativity, are fundamentally uncomputerizable. This is hardly the implied conclusion! The implied conclusion is just this: that for computers to act human, we will have to wait until we have good computer models of such human things as perception, memory, mental categories, learning, and so on. We are a long way from that. But there is no reason to assume that those goals are in principle unattainable, even if they remain far off for a long time.

Terry Pratchett – Pyramids (1989)

As far as camels were concerned, the way to mighty intellectual development was to have nothing much to do and nothing to do it with.

He reached the crest of the dune, gazed with approval over the rolling sands ahead of him, and began to think in logarithms.

Charles Darwin – The Descent of Man (1871)

Brehm, when accompanying the Duke of Coburg-Gotha, aided in an attack with firearms on a troop of baboons, in the pass of Mensa in Abyssinia. The baboons in return rolled so many stones down the mountain, some as large as a man’s head, that the attackers had to beat a hasty retreat, and the pass was actually closed for a time against the caravan.

Carl Sagan – Cosmos (1980)

I believe our future depends powerfully upon how well we understand this cosmos, in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky.

Douglas Adams – The Salmon of Doubt (2002, posthumous)

It was a concept of such stunning simplicity, but it gave rise, naturally, to all of the infinite and baffling complexity of life. The awe it inspired in me made the awe that people talk about in respect of religious experience seem, frankly, silly beside it. I’d take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day.

Richard Dawkins – The God Delusion (2006)

The fact that a question can be phrased in a grammatically correct English sentence doesn’t make it meaningful, or entitle it to our serious attention.

Carl Sagan – Broca’s Brain (1979)

Some decades ago the English mathematician A. M. Turing described what would be necessary for him to believe in machine intelligence. The condition was simply that he could be in teletype communication with a machine and be unable to tell that it was not a human being. … No device of this sophistication has yet been built, although I am not sure how many humans would pass Turing’s human test.