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Home » Why Can’t AI ‘Think’ Like Us? – Graham Morehead (Transcript)

Why Can’t AI ‘Think’ Like Us? – Graham Morehead (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Graham Morehead’s talk titled “Why Can’t AI ‘Think’ Like Us?” at TEDxSpokane conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


The Mysterious Shed in Rural Japan

You find yourself somewhere in rural Japan, walking along. You find this little shed, some little structure. A woman approaches. In her hands, she has something written on paper. It’s Japanese characters. She slides it into an input slot, goes around the other side, waits a couple of minutes, and another piece of paper emerges. She looks at it, smiles, and walks away.

Then a man approaches, and he does the same. He’s got something written in Japanese on a piece of paper, slides it in, walks around the other side of the shed, waits a minute, and receives something. You run up to him and ask, “What are you doing? What is this?” He said, “Well, it’s the question box.” Anything I want to know, we can just write it down, put it in the input slot, and the answer comes out the output slot.

You see a hundred people wait in line, and all during the day, they keep asking questions, and answers keep coming out. At the end of the day, the door is open. Inside is some American dude that doesn’t speak a lick of Japanese. “How are you doing this?” you ask him. He says, “Come here.” And he folds out this massive book, and this book has huge pages with two columns.

He says, “Whenever I get a question, I look for it in the left column of this page. When I find it, I just draw whatever’s to the right. I didn’t even know I was answering questions until you told me.” Those people felt understood. Were they? If you put a fluent Japanese speaker in that shed, he would understand them, but the answers would be the same. Is there any difference at all? “What does it mean to be understood?”

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