The Liar

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From: Eugene Leitl (
Date: Mon May 15 2000 - 19:36:31 PDT

Eirikur Hallgrimsson writes:

> The Liar is what a philosopher calls a zombie. A liar is a person,
> who looks like you or me, and like us behaves in some way somehow
> related to their environment, and speaks and listens, etc, but has no
> internal experience, is just an automaton. You've just met Jane

Sufficiently advanced zombies are indistinguishable from the real
person. The impact of philosophers in the field of AI has so far been
not exactly constructive, mostly engaging in wordplays, and giving
false leads. (Never give any dining philosophers a fork).

> Doe, and she seems pretty cool, but inside she's just a Fortran
> program. Jane can flirt, and complain about her childhood, and she

She can be a paper tape or a glass bead Turing machine, it doesn't
matter (but the response times will be a tad slow).

> SAYS that she's a feeling being. But, we can look inside, and we
> know she's a Fortran program. She's lying. That's what someone
> would probably say about the matter, but I say that the programmer is
> lying. And the programmer is lying because it pays.
It doesn't matter, if she lies, as long as I can hire her instead of
the real Jane Doe. And can run her 24/7/345, and spawn off clones of
her with full state in next to no time.

> If Jane is good enough to get a job at IBM, or make the cut in a
> singles bar, is it slavery to use her program in my answering machine?
> It's just a Fortran program. Is it moral to turn her off?
If she's a dumb AI (i.e. does not protest, nor goes on strike), they
you're welcome to do so.

> Programmers are going to create entities that claim to be conscious.
> Programmers are probably going to create entities that really are
> conscious. I expect more of the first, at least at first.

Not quite. Programmers/hardware designers will create boundary
conditions for the emergence of intelligence. For several reasons
bipedal primates can't code their equivalents, set apart from
superhuman AI.
> I have to admit that in dissecting Jane as a Fortran program, I'm
> falling into the homunculus problem. If you dissect Eirikur, you
> can't find the conscious entity or seat of feelings, either--and what
> the heck were you doing poking around in my head anyway?
Er, no need to obscure your point. Spike trains are indeed just as
opaque as a few Fortran codes out of context.

> Anyway, even if you think the state of honesty in the world is at a
> low ebb as I do, I'd prepare for a whole new class of liars.

Prepare to meet liars pretending (convincingly) they're demigods, and

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