Artificial intelligence (AI) is a hot topic as our gadgets do more and more of our thinking for us. Find out why Ken Wheeler’s take on AI is preposterous speculation that proves nothing but his own lack of computing expertise.
Artificial intelligence (AI) means intelligence demonstrated by machines. It’s the opposite of natural intelligence which is intelligence displayed by humans and other animals to varying degrees.
It’s important to understand that artificial intelligence doesn’t mean machines that can reproduce things the human mind can do, like learning or solving problems.
Instead, it means the study and design of intelligent agents. That includes any kind of system that can perceive the environment around it and respond in ways that deliver an intended result.
Lots of Everyday Technology Uses Artificial Intelligence
So, lots of everyday technology uses artificial intelligence. This includes chess programs, search engines like Google, the algorithms that recommend things to us on social media, voice activated assistants like Siri and Alexa and the radar-enabled cruise control in our cars.
Artificial intelligence isn’t science fiction. It has nothing to do with conscious, self-aware supercomputers like HAL-9000 that might someday run amok and take over the world.
Ken Wheeler has his own idiosyncratic ideas about artificial intelligence. He admits that he has no background in computer science, software development or programming. In fact, he declares that “I would rather do anything in my life other than computer programming.”
“I Don’t Pretend to Be a Computer Programmer”
He goes on to say, “I don’t pretend to be a computer programmer.” Naturally, that doesn’t stop him from declaring himself a fake expert on the topic.
He claims that sentience and artificial intelligence are impossible using computers. He dismisses supercomputers as “binary machines,” and “nothing other than an ultra-complex calculator moving ones and zeros around.”
For these reasons, he declares that “we’re never going to see artificial intelligence.” He then proceeds to conflate intelligence with consciousness.
Intelligence, Sentience and Consciousness – Separate Ideas
Intelligence, sentience and consciousness are three separate ideas. As he often does with technical terms from fields in which he’s self-taught, the Angry Photographer uses these unrelated words interchangeably and incorrectly.
Intelligence in the AI field, as defined by Merriam Webster, means “the ability to perform computer functions.” Sentience is “feeling or sensation as distinguished from perception or thought.” Consciousness is “the quality or state of being aware especially of something within oneself.”
So it’s obvious that computers can perform the functions for which they’ve been programmed. On the other hand, while computers connected to cameras or microphones have a very limited kind of perception, they’re not sentient.
A Computer is Not Aware of Itself or What It’s Doing
Although a computer’s ability to process information is a rudimentary kind of thought, a computer is not aware of itself or what it’s doing. It has no consciousness.
So, while computers have intelligence, they lack sentience or consciousness. To paraphrase philosopher Thomas Nagel, there’s nothing that it’s like to be a computer, but that doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as artificial intelligence.
The Theoria Apophasis host goes on to insist that consciousness is “the consubstantiality of two things – matter and spirit.” He declares this to be “scientifically undeniable.”
Scientists Deny His “Scientifically Undeniable” Claim
Ken Wheeler doesn’t bother to mention that scientists like Richard Dawkins deny this quite vehemently. Other scientists disagree with Dawkins but it’s preposterous to try to claim that this idea can’t be denied scientifically. Many scientists deny it on a daily basis.
Here once again, he’s conflating two separate ideas. Spirit and consciousness aren’t synonyms any more than sentience and intelligence mean the same thing.
The Angry Photographer then commits one of his trademark logical fallacies. He declares that the only way a “human construct” could replicate consciousness would be by using water.
Logical Fallacies Underlie His Fascination with Water
We explain the many logical fallacies that underlie the Theoria Apophasis host’s fascination with good old H2O under Water – Why Ken’s Wrong. Here, we’ll stick to the main points for the sake of brevity.
Some, but by no means all, antennas are v-shaped. Water molecules are also v-shaped.
Based on that, Ken Wheeler has mysteriously concluded that water is an antenna. The fact that distilled water can’t conduct electromagnetic signals doesn’t seem to curb his enthusiasm for this idea.
Jumps to Conclusion that Water Acts as Spiritual Antenna
The Angry Photographer has jumped to the conclusion that water acts as an antenna connecting our spirits to our physical bodies. Since all life on Earth is water-based, this, in his mind, proves that all living things are animated by spirit via the water molecule. This supposedly works the way a radio is animated by a signal through its antenna.
The YouTuber behind Theoria Apophasis goes on to argue that an inventor could produce artificial consciousness by mixing water and table salt – what doctors call a saline solution. He mentions that there are two other chemicals that would also do the trick although he says he can’t remember what they are.
Presumably Ken Wheeler is cherry-picking ideas about the various compounds that dissolve into ions that scientists call electrolytes. These include alkalis, chlorides, sulphides and carbonate compounds. There are far more than three of them, but that’s a separate discussion.
Glass Jar Around the Size of a Human Head With Saltwater
The Angry Photographer describes his proposed device as a glass jar around the size of a human head filled with saltwater, with input and output terminals. A “holographic processor matrix” suspended in the salty water would spontaneously generate “holographic information.”
The reason for this manifestation of consciousness supposedly has to do with the v-shape of water molecules. Kentucky Ken explains that this happens due to “the actual holography of perfect incommensurability that exists in the geometry of the molecule itself.”
That’s quite a mouthful of word salad. Translating it into English, Ken Wheeler is arguing that because a water molecule is the same shape as the rabbit ears on an old-school television set, it’s a kind of spiritual aerial through which consciousness would emerge spontaneously.
Says Our Brains Are a Water-Based “Holographic Matrix”
The Angry Photographer explains that our brains are a water-based “holographic matrix.” Somehow his bucket of salty water, or perhaps electrolyte-rich Gatorade (my sarcastic suggestion, not his!), will be able to replicate the hitherto inexplicable phenomenon of the human brain, which scientists have called the most complex object in the known universe.
Demanding an impossible standard of proof, the Theoria Apophasis host tells his audience that, “I don’t know of anybody on Earth that is attempting to submerge a processor matrix into a saline water solution.” There’s a reason for that. The entire notion is preposterous.
How is Ken Wheeler wrong about all this? Let me count the ways.
Consciousness and Intelligence Are Two Separate Things
Consciousness and intelligence are two separate things. Artificial intelligence is under no obligation to replicate human consciousness in order to accomplish useful things.
Scientists don’t agree that consciousness emerges from a metaphysical entity called spirit. The Angry Photography offers no evidence supporting the notion that consciousness is equivalent to spirit or vice versa.
The mere fact that a water molecule is shaped like a “v” doesn’t prove that it functions as an antenna. The shape of an antenna is a function of the wavelength of the signal its designers want to capture, and most antennas aren’t v-shaped.
If Device Could Work, Scientists Would Have Build It
If a device as simple as the one the Theoria Apophasis host proposes could work, scientists would have built it decades ago. They haven’t, because it couldn’t. That’s also why Kentucky Ken hasn’t built one himself.
Ken Wheeler tells his followers, “I spend time thinking about a lot of different stuff. Stuff that a lot of people don’t think about.” As we can see, some additional intelligence, whether natural or artificial, would probably help him with these thought processes.
Better yet, instead of trying to teach himself artificial intelligence, the Angry Photographer would be better advised to discuss the topic with legitimate experts in the field. Unfortunately, that’s unlikely to happen since Kentucky Ken would have to concede that someone knew more about a subject than he does and he views modern science as a vast conspiracy to deny the truth.