Before the spread of Monotheism
throughout the world, polytheistic
explanations for natural phenomenon were commonplace. As people, we immediately ascribe significance to any pattern
, real or imagined, and assume some force, malevolent or beneficial, must have caused it. The law of large numbers
, and the feelings of coincidence
and divine providence
, as well as deja vu
are all results, more or less direct, of this tendency.
Whenever a person notices something happening that they cannot explain within the framework of their mind, they assume that it must have significance "beyond" that given realm of thought. The assumption that people around a given person are intelligent is not a fact, but rather an anthropomorpic reflection of what we feel ourselves to be. Solipsistically, the only thing that is actually real is yourself; I think, therefore I am. I perceive you and your actions, therefore I perceive that you think as well.
The only problem with this approach is that it leaves intelligence completely undefined; Is a cat "intelligent?" It seems that way to some people. This, on one level at least, is the basis for the Turing test of computer intelligence: what a person perceives as intelligent, is intelligent, by the one of the few criteria that has been seriously proposed as universal. There is a problem here, of course. The ecosystem, by this definition, is intelligent, self correcting, goal seeking, and is certainly perceived by some people as "Gaia," an intelligent, if not being, than certainly system. The newer chess programs play chess in a way that almost all humans are unable to beat, and certainly unable to predict. In fact, a magic 8-ball would qualify, as a chaotic system that displays aspects of decision making skill.
Basically, as modern humans, we feel that such definitions are childish and unscientific, if not downright wrong. The only test that matters, however, is how we interact with the world around us, and as far as that test is concerned, there is very little in the world around us that the majority of humanity find truly non-intelligent. So what, then, is the pursuit of artificial intelligence about? Is this just vanity, trying to find a superhuman in machine form? Or, is intelligence as we discuss it actually something different than whatever we ascribe it to?