Watson, Artificial Cat Brains, and Your Intelligent Innards

A six-week-old kitten.
Who would win on “Jeopardy!”: This cat or your stomach?  (Image via Wikipedia)

Incredibly lazy post today, though I hope to write a less lazy follow up to a previous post later today.  “Preparation day” wackiness may prevent, however–if so, I will strive to do so Sunday or Monday.

But first, the lazy stuff!  As the title suggests, this will be a bit of a potpourri…

I have written recently on Watson, the computer that won on Jeopardy (here and here), but There was a great point made in a Wall Street Journal article recently.  Although the article itself is behind a subscription pay wall, the title communicates the very important idea rather succinctly: “Watson Doesn’t Know It Won on ‘Jeopardy!'” Just pondering that obvious truth has brought me to the conclusion that the Turing Test, should it ever be passed, is insufficient to judge whether or not Artificial Intelligence has been created.

The article’s subtitle says quite a bit, too: “IBM invented an ingenious program—not a computer that can think.”  In the discussion of this fact, the article discusses, too, the differences between what a computer does and what a brain does.  Actually, in this Dr. John Searle of UC Berkeley, the author of the article trips up a bit and “over-materializes” human thought which makes his apparent conclusions much more vulnerable to assault that he might imagine.

However, the problems that he imagines might be addressed by the next item in our potpourri: A construct that mimics the construction of the brain rather than simulating brain processes.  It is discussed here in a Live Science article (no pay wall): “Cat Brain Inspires Computers of the Future.” With “synapses” and “neurons,” computers such as these seek to do what the brain does while utilizing an architecture similar to the brain’s, as opposed to forcing mind-like functions on a standard computer architecture.

The discussion of a cat brain reminded me of this Discover magazine interview with Gerald Edelman.  But it also reminded me of this Wall Street Journal article (no pay wall) about your “gut brain” — or, more technically, your enteric nervous system.  It is essentially, a separate “brain” contained within the tissue of your esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine that works with your “big brain” to regulate your feelings of hunger and satiation.  And it has as many nerve cells (about 500 million) as a cat’s brain.  (You can decide if that means our guts are smart, cats are dumb, or a little of both.)  I thought it was fascinating — including the (scary?) ways some companies are trying to manipulate this “brain” to help people lose weight, etc.

And now, this lazy post is officially over!

3 thoughts on “Watson, Artificial Cat Brains, and Your Intelligent Innards

  1. Lazy or not, it’s a trip. And animals, at least the higher ones, have an advantage over WATSON – even a cat does: it knows. But that still isn’t enough. “Admittedly, an animal knows. But it cannot know that it knows,” claimed someone we used to quote back in the (WCG) day. If that’s true, then the ultimate gap between man and everything else in physical creation is exactly that quality.

  2. The post was good. Not lazy but supplied a little levity. One needs a chuckle from time to time. Like medication it is good to laugh, better than medication it has no side effects. It was a cute post and the Watson post was interesting. What they won’t do to try and prove that machine is smarter than man.

  3. art thoede

    Just imagine taking this (or any) scientific discovered information about what affects the”gut brain” ; and using it as a means to add compulsion to eat more of a specific “doctored up product” for the “big brain” to decide to purchase more of!

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