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Could artificial intelligence put words into Stephen Hawking's mouth?

World Scientific


IMAGE: This is the front cover of Impossible Minds. view more

Credit: Imperial College Press

Cosmologist Stephen Hawking was so impressed with the new communication system delivered by Intel recently that he thought the artificial intelligence that helps him to speak could doom mankind. Called ACAT (Assistive Context Aware Toolkit). the system is able to learn how the user thinks, and from there, suggests words he might want to use. The developer of this system should take Hawking's remark as a pack on the shoulder rather than a declaration that "the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race," (source: Hawking to the BBC).

Can machines think? Are they conscious of their own attempts to recognize the problem, and understand the problem by forming a perception from sensory information gathered and concepts stored in our memories -- so as to develop a strategy, either inductively and deductively, to work out a solution and make a decision to act on an option?

Igor Aleksander examines the issue of machine consciousness in his new edition of his book Impossible Minds. In the concluding remarks, Aleksander stated that the thrust of his objection to the question of "the Singularity" is that the act of design itself is an intelligent act by humans, and that singularity arguments depend on such acts being fully analysed before any transfer to AI programs is possible.

Emertius Professor (Imperial College London) Igor Aleksander also argues that the process of improvement on the last design needs to be analysed -- a territory that is totally unknown not only in practice but also in principle because the process of general design has, to date, not been successfully and rigorously analysed. It has remained enduringly unknown even with the best efforts of researchers in Artificial General Intelligence. He sees this as Artificial Intelligence's kind of "philosophers' stone".

However, clever the new ACAT system is, for now, it will never able to put words into Hawkin's month; mankind still holds on to the last word on every matter.


The book retails at US$98 / £65 for the hardback and US$45 / £30 for the paperback, at all leading bookstores. For more details on the latest edition of Impossible Minds, visit

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