Pointless Dinner Table Conversations, part 1

“Dad, how do I know you’re not a robot?”

“Robots don’t cry in sad movies. The Turing Test says that robots can’t match people in emotional intelligence.”

“But you don’t cry in sad movies…”

“That’s because I’m a man, son, not a robot. Listen, you ever heard of the saying, ‘If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck?’

“It could be a robot duck, programmed to act like a real duck. You could be a robot father…”

“Look mate, Descartes said, I think therefore I am. I think it’s time you ate those peas.”

“Yeah but dad, how do I know that? I know I think. Maybe you just compute. Or maybe you’re an illusion. Or a computer simulation. Or…”

“Maybe. Know what Descartes’ wife said?”

“No. What?”

“He pays the bills therefore he is.”

“Is what?”

“Not completely useless, anyway.”

WTF is this? Well, I’m trying to distill selected philosophical ideas into a form suitable for our local newsletter, which goes out to farmers, retired hippies and such like. Why? I don’t know really. But it’s an interesting exercise. For instance, after years of thinking, ‘oh yeah, I know what the Turing Test is,’ I realised – I don’t know. So I looked it up and turns out it’s crap. Sorry Alan, but there’s no way to tell if your boyfriend is a robot. Long story short, if he holds your hand and is good in bed, don’t worry about it. ‘You think I am therefore I am’ is a more practical solution to the problem.

Am I wrong? IS there a way to tell?



  1. It’s funny how we’re using our ability to identify objects in photos to prove we’re not a robot and log in to websites, and we’re using photos to train robots to identify things.

  2. Heh — funny…

    Speaking for myself, I’m sort of unclear on whether any of y’all even exist at all or whether I’m just making it all up as I go along.

    After all, In an infinite universe or number of universes, the odds of my brain in its current configuration, memories, beliefs, and all, just popping into virtual existence for a small flash is a lot more likely than my brain plus the entire cosmological universe in its current configuration existing at all. In that case, nothing but this instantaneous flash of my brain exists, and it not for long (generally the larger the virtual event, the shorter it is).

    This would necessarily mean that y’all are nothing but imaginary constructs of my virtual brain as it exists in this microsecond. Happily, there are some fairly sound reasons in quantum field theory as applied to cosmology to believe that this is unlikely.

    I’ll bet y’all are relieved at the close call there.

    But till I’ve got it down for sure, I’m not even going to start on the problem of whether any or all of you are AIs.

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