2015 : WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT MACHINES THAT THINK?

Professor of English and Journalism, State University of New York, Albany; Author of The Eudaemonic Pie and The Spy Who Loved Us
Thinking About Thinking Machines

Thinking is good. Understanding is better. Creating is best. We are surrounded by increasingly thoughtful machines. The problem lies in their mundanity. They think about landing airplanes and selling me stuff. They think about surveillance and censorship. Their thinking is simple-minded, if not nefarious. Last year a computer was reported to have passed the Turing Test. But it passed as a thirteen-year-old boy, which is about right, considering the preoccupations of our jejune machines.

I can't wait for our machines to grow up, to get more poetry and humor. This should be the art project of the century, funded by governments, foundations, universities, businesses. Everybody has a vested interest in getting our thinking more thoughtful, improving our understanding, and generating new ideas. We have made a lot of dumb decisions lately, based on poor information or too much information or the inability to understand what this information means.

We have numerous problems to confront and solutions to find. Let's start thinking. Let's start creating. Let's agitate for more funk, more soul, more poetry and art. Let's dial back on the surveillance and sales. We need more artist-programmers and artistic programming. It is time for our thinking machines to grow out of an adolescence that has lasted now for sixty years.