On Artificial Understanding

Humanness is the ability to understand another person. Understanding another person is the most complex form of higher nervous activity. Reinforcement is its simplest form.

Understanding by itself has many levels. The simplest levels of understanding are automated and very closely intertwined in organisms of multicellular creatures. Therefore, it may be easier to begin the study of understanding with unicellular organisms as models.

A microbe recording its causal states — rudimentary episodic memory by changing the expression of genes in its RNA chain is a living prototype of such a unique machine for understanding as man is. I am not confused when comparing man with a machine because, I repeat again, understanding at many levels in our body is automated.

Man is a machine. But it is based on a completely different principle than all the machines created by humans so far. The human machine is built to understand, from the level of a single cell or even single molecule. Although, what is our body, if not a single cell, but only macroscopic? What is human society, if we consider it not as a colony of unicellular organisms, but from the point of view of intracellular interaction of organelles and complex molecules?

If understanding can be automated, and our body proves just that, then understanding can be understood and the algorithm of understanding can be created. This means that the creation of smart machines is possible if we recognise that the ability to understand is a key property of the mind.

Taken more broadly, understanding is a foundation of all living systems. The ability to understand makes them alive in the first place. Understanding makes them smart enough to be able to survive on their own. Living matter is smart. Dead matter is dumb.

It is not the hardware nor the software of a smartphone that makes it smart but the human understanding of how to use it.

To be smart the machine just needs to be able to understand, but not just express itself in an understandable way. Therefore, the famous Turing intelligence test is made more for humans than for machines.

Understanding is already artificial to the extent that understanding of each single thing is being created in each human head. All we need is to understand and create the process of understanding.

Creating artificial understanding is crucially important for us, humans, to better understand what humanness is. Only understanding creates the freedom of choice. All the rest is either the thoughtless certainty of commands’ execution, or the meaningless uncertainty of a drunkard’s walk.

That is, in fact, the main conclusion from the book on understanding that I am currently writing.



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Yuri Barzov

Yuri Barzov

Curious about life and intelligence