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Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Consider the AI Mirror Test

 Intelligence in a mirror.

Introducing the AI Mirror Test, which very smart people keep failing

AI chatbots like Bing and ChatGPT are entrancing users, but they’re just autocomplete systems trained on our own stories about superintelligent AI.   That makes them software — not sentient.

By JAMES VINCENT, Feb 17, 2023 

In behavioral psychology, the mirror test is designed to discover animals’ capacity for self-awareness. There are a few variations of the test, but the essence is always the same: do animals recognize themselves in the mirror or think it’s another being altogether?

Right now, humanity is being presented with its own mirror test thanks to the expanding capabilities of AI — and a lot of otherwise smart people are failing it. 

A GIF of a gorilla charging its own reflection in a mirror. 

Don’t be distracted by what you see in the mirror. Image: Xavier Hubert-Brierre via Tenor

The mirror is the latest breed of AI chatbots, of which Microsoft’s Bing is the most prominent example. The reflection is humanity’s wealth of language and writing, which has been strained into these models and is now reflected back to us. We’re convinced these tools might be the superintelligent machines from our stories because, in part, they’re trained on those same tales. Knowing this, we should be able to recognize ourselves in our new machine mirrors, but instead, it seems like more than a few people are convinced they’ve spotted another form of life. 

This misconception is spreading with varying degrees of conviction. It’s been energized by a number of influential tech writers who have waxed lyrical about late nights spent chatting with Bing. They aver that the bot is not sentient, of course, but note, all the same, that there’s something else going on — that its conversation changed something in their hearts. 

“No, I don’t think that Sydney is sentient, but for reasons that are hard to explain, I feel like I have crossed the Rubicon,” wrote Ben Thompson in his Stratechery newsletter. 

“In the light of day, I know that Sydney is not sentient [but] for a few hours Tuesday night, I felt a strange new emotion — a foreboding feeling that AI had crossed a threshold, and that the world would never be the same,” wrote Kevin Roose for The New York Times.  .... ' 

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