Swimming With Submarines – Chapter for the Robot Love publication exploring notions of computation and cognition in machines edited by Ine Gevers. Pleas email for full text.

Edsger Dijkstra, the dutch computer scientist, quizzed on machine intelligence said ‘ the question of whether a computer can think is about as relevant as the question of whether submarines can swim.’ Increasingly, we describe machines with life-like characteristics. They think, see, feel, love, hate as opposed to sensing and congnating and are designed with this vocabulary in mind. We increasingly begin to consider them as conscious machines navigating the landscape on the same level as animals. This is the level of interaction created by the alienating, black-boxed complexity of autonomous, seemingly intelligent machines permeating daily life. This essay will examine how we project our embodied sense of being human onto machines designed and built to display life-like characteristics; autonomous behaviour, rhetoric, exigence and apparent agency. Through this projection, we hope to relate to them, comparing our experience to their and creating narratives of their will, needs and wants. The essay will speculate about alternatives, a world in which machines are understood at a root level by humans, where the job of culturally assimilating them into the physical world as products of computation is done by their human interlocutors rather than by the anthropomorphised bleeps, bloops and cute displays of contemporary technology. What if the interface between the machine cognate and the human conscious was pushed away from the human, grounded in the machine world rather than the human? What sensorium might we develop to interact and respond to cognitive beings approached and interacted with on their own terms.

Last updated: 05.2020