Recently, The Atlantic published an article claiming that "Google Taught an AI That Sorts Cat Photos to Analyze DNA". When you look at the original paper published by the Google team, what they really did was take a neural network model normally used for image classification and apply it to classifying DNA data instead (see also this debunking of The Atlantic's article). From one point of view you can claim that they used "an AI" to analyze DNA data, from another they just applied a more advanced mathematical model than the previously used ones (universal approximators vs. parametric models).
This begs the question: Assuming that the computational theory of mind and functionalism are true, is there a way of discriminating algorithms that are just software and mathematical models from algorithms that qualify as AI?
One straight up answer to this is obvious: It's an AI if it passes the Turing test (or some modern more advanced variation of it), otherwise it is just software.
But beyond the Turing test there seems to be another issue with The Atlantic's article: To say that "an AI" did this or that implies that the neural network they used had some level of agency or autonomy, when in fact it was a completely inert program that starts and stops based on a set of pre-defined parameters and instructions.
The same applies to Amazon's Alexa: It doesn't respond to any communication unless someone prefaces their sentence with the word "Alexa". It never starts communicating on its own or spontaneously inserts itself into a conversation.
- Does this autonomy/agency aspect of a program really make it possible to distinguish intelligent AI from "just software"?
- Has the question of agency been studied in philosophy of mind and philosophy of artificial intelligence?
- How is agency (as described above) related to intentionality and to Daniel Dennett's intentional stance?
Dennett says in "The Intentional Stance" that: "first you decide to treat the object whose behavior is to be predicted as a rational agent; then you figure out what beliefs that agent ought to have, given its place in the world and its purpose." but can we treat an object as an agent with purpose if it doesn't have the autonomy that I described above?
- Similarly how does this tie into Chalmers notion of Philosophical Zombie? Why might imagine that such autonomy can serve to discriminate between philosophical zombies and humans, since zombies act like they are autonomous, but aren't being driven by an autonomous agent on the "inside" (See my previous post about "freewill zombies")?