Woz has harsh words for Microsoft and the NSA; doubts computers will achieve consciousness

On Wednesday, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak spoke at the Apps World conference in San Francisco.

“Wozniak reserved judgment on Apple CEO Tim Cook, who took over the reins of the company shortly before Steve Jobs’ death in October 2011. Apple under Cook needs more time, he said,” Paul Krill reports for InfoWorld. “He also questioned Microsoft’s claims of innovation, arguing unsurprisingly that Apple has bested Microsoft in that area. ‘Microsoft sat there for decades, saying, ‘We’re the company of innovation, innovation, innovation.’ And I never saw anything compared to what Apple was doing.'”

“Wozniak also had harsh words for the National Security Agency’s monitoring of private citizens, which he said violates the Constitution,” Krill reports. “Wozniak said he grew up thinking his phone could be tapped only if he was doing something wrong, in which case a court-issued warrant would be required. Image (1) 090528_woz.jpg for post 28704“Now, they’re saying anybody can be tapped.” He warned that the United States risks becoming a police state if prosecutors and government agencies are allowed to proceed unchecked, and he stressed that there should be protections for law-abiding individuals.”

“Wozniak also doubted the ability to make computers that are conscious of what is going on around them, akin to human brain capabilities,” Krill reports. “‘We don’t understand the brain. How do we make a conscious computer?’ Still, in an interview with InfoWorld about how to successfully innovate, Wozniak described the notion of companion computers that would be able to assist people in everyday activities. They may not be conscious, but they’d be more contextual and human than today.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Not much to argue with on his first two points. What do you think about the third? Is the singularity impossible?

Related articles:
Apple co-founder Woz: Apple should make an Android phone – February 6, 2014
Apple co-founder Woz announced as opening keynote speaker at Apps World in San Francisco – January 27, 2014


    1. In 1770 a chess machine called ‘The Turk’ was invented. It was not really a machine as such but had a human midget sitting inside a wooden cabinet moving the chess pieces around. It was ingenious but required human brainpower to actuate (move) the chess pieces around the board.

      In 1997, Garry Kasparov, then world chess champion (FIDE rating 2851) was beaten by IBM Deep Blue, the first time in the history of humankind that a human world chess champion had been beaten by a chess playing machine.

      In 2014, no human, including Magnus Carlsen (FIDE rating 2872), the present world chess champion can beat a chess playing computer. I repeat, no human, now or in the future will be able to beat a chess computer.

      While a chess playing computer is not cognisant (self-aware), the then world chess champion, Garry Kasparov, said as late as the early 1990’s that no chess computer ever invented then or in the future could ever beat him in a normal chess game under normal timed conditions. He was proven wrong in 1997.

      In the 1940’s the Germans thought that their Enigma coding machine with a possible 2 billion combinations would never be cracked. Yet Alan Turing at Bletchley Park led a team that not only cracked the code but cracked some of it within the same morning that it was intercepted by long range antennas based in Dover, England.

      My conclusion? Sentient machines will be exploring the outer fringes of the solar system within the next 500 years. Mars Curiosity Rover has sufficient on board computing power to autonomously travel on the Martian surface. When quantum computing becomes a reality, our efforts will seem like primitive men looking at a handheld computer today.

        1. No, no, no. Spock simply wrote HIS OWN game to test a hypothesis. Since he could only teach the computer what he knew about chess, the worst the computer should have achieved is a draw, only he managed to beat it several times. So his conclusion was that the computer had indeed been tampered with. Jeez! Everyone knows that.

          In addition, the real serious AI work was then (and still is in the future of the future) going on at the Richard Daystrom institute, where Dr. Daystrom himself created the M5, a computer he used his own mental / memory engrams upon to jump start the singularity. Unfortunately the great Dr. Daystrom happened to be nutty as a fruitcake and when they put his computer in charge of the Enterprise, the ship went on a killing spree.

          Eventually Federation AI will take a giant leap forward with the creation of the Soong type androids, I.e. Commander Data from TNG. Their creator made at least 4. The creator being Noonian Soong, a descendant of Arik Soong, the geneticist who was responsible for creating KAHN Noonien Soong, who turned out to a real bastard mostly because for selling people time shares on a creepy island with a “little person,” then turning his attention to selling faux leather in Chryslers, then after beating the crap out of Captain Kirk multiple times in multiple timelines, becoming just too fucking busy to make more Sherlock Holmes episodes. Jerk.

      1. Seriously… computers are far more dumb than you give them credit for. As much as we want to dream that a computer can gain sentience and as much as we, as a human, want to prove that we indeed can create sentient life (never mind intelligent sentient life)… I really don’t think it is a mathematical reality.

        The pundits want to believe it is possible, because then it raises the point that the brain is just a simple computer on steroids. However, all research points to the facts that it is much, much more. The brain of a child has been called the most powerful learning machine in the known universe.

        We’ll integrate control of machines into a human sentient brain long before we actually create a sentient machine from completely non-organic materials.

        1. Personally I think the reasoning part of human intelligence CAN be successfully reproduced and perhaps exceeded given enough computing power. Saying that I also believe the intuitive and creative parts may never completely be realized with the current computer models. When we can get a computer that can generate its own questions and work on answering them then proceed to form new questions based on that result, that is when I think we will have taken a step to generating machine sentience.

    2. The one thing we can all agree on is that artificial intelligence is one of humanity’s signal dreams, an expression of a deep urge to improve upon our own intelligence whilst stripping it of its bestial, neurotoxic underpinnings. Whether that can even be done is a question answerable only, perhaps, by an A.I. construct modelled after Kurt Gödel or Ludwig Wittgenstein.

      1. Actually you probably mean “We are Borg”.. Unless that is you are the Queen or a member of that group that the Enterprise crew made “individuals”. 😀

  1. The singularity might be possible if computers can recognize the implications of the concept of death. They would also have to be programmed with emotions. Lorr versus Data!?

    1. But computers will die en-masse once the next mega solar storm/flare that hits the Earth head-on as it did back just after the Civil War in the 1859 Carrington Event.

      So what good are computers, TVs, cameras and cellphones going to do when that day arrives? I know this is a bit irrelevant to Woz, but the concept of death to a computer has to be recognition that one pulse can kill it.

          1. Thanks for the refresher, Hannah, cool weblink
            I worked in semi equipment for years, and did “High Density Plasma Chemical Vapor Deposition”, using Silane gas (SiH4) in high concentration, in a very high energy RF environment, to create a plasma of silicon atoms which when exposed to air burst into flame and seemed to move about as well as arc to the nearest ground when released into the atmosphere, the smell still brings back memories of silicosis,,,,, those were the days !-)

  2. Singularity?

    Yeah, not going to happen. There’s a reason Vinge makes his Singularities happen in parts of the cosmos that for poorly-explained reasons allow faster cognition and changes in the speed of light.

    It’s the same problem (from my POV) as the Von Neumann machine issue. Why don’t we have VNMs mining the asteroids and bringing back infinite wealth already? These self-creating/improving systems bury themselves in their own complexity. It’s like the failure points increase (at minimum) in quadrature to the usefulness of a novel system.

  3. Well the human body can create it in 9 months even if the result is not born totally intelligent and self aware. I think it would be madness to say that it cannot occur at sometime in the future, indeed I suspect that while the point at which consciousness occurs will be arguable, that as long as we continue to be a technologically advancing civilisation that at some point something be it close or actual, will be created, if only in Labs. Thereafter the problem is about cost, complexity and thus practical use though as similar doubts were cast upon the usefulness of the computer in its early days I would not even write that process off either. Who can seriously imagine what the world will be like in a century or two or even if it will still be around.

  4. Not in 20 years, maybe not even in 50, but it will happen. Right now they are building computers that have biological components (neurons), so that we can study how they interact. We are also at the dawn of quantum computing. These two paths are the key to a computer that can create, rather than just process.

  5. Being self aware is vastly different than be aware of its environment. One of the key components I think to the concept of singularity is mortality. For without the ability to fear for the outcome of ones action in terms of life threatening you cannot really have full singularity. You just have a simulation of it. And for computers, which store data to various persistent medium, there truly is no singularity, it’s a plurality really because a systems consciousness is persisted and shared with other systems.

    Computers can enter into a hive /group think mode but can never reach a singularity because it simply will never exist. And if you cannot have a true singularity you cannot be self aware.

    Back to fear of consequence, with singularity there is a fear of consequence. If you die it’s over. Forever. With a plurality if you die your consciousness and physical being both continue to survive. It just morphs into a slightly different state of being. With no permanent end of existence how can there ever be a true fear of consequence? A computer will never be self aware at best it can be aware of the existence of it role in the whole of digital existence.

    1. I’m not sure a key component of the concept of singularity is mortality.. For example that would imply that infants are born into the world already knowing about the concept of death. As for self-awareness that will probably come first with the infant recognizing its own body and then it’s face when looking in a mirror for the first time.

    1. Science never claimed to have all the answers. Science is the method to discover the answers. Ham is too lazy to do the hard work of science, so he picks up a dusty old text and declares it the “ultimate truth”, fully knowing that it was not actually written under verified supervision of the supposed diety that Ham claims is responsible for everything, including consciousness.

      I will stick to science to solve meaningful questions. Nye had it right. When asked a question to which an answer has not yet been uncovered, he responded, “I don’t know.” It would be refreshing to hear a bible thumper have the humility to admit the same.

      1. If anyone claims to know ‘The Ultimate Truth’, consider them to be asleep. We humans are not capable of knowing the ultimate anything. We can only strive to understand.

        A couple Sundays back I was amused to watch an irresponsible preacher attempt to teach his flock that evolution did not exist. His most hilarious example was the extinct bivalves found in fossil layers. (He called them ‘clams’). Why did they no long exist on Earth? Because of The Flood! Noah didn’t put them on the ark. Problem: ‘Clams’ live strictly in water. Therefore, that flood… 😯

  6. It took millions and millions of year for the our brain to reach the current state for the basic system to grow in 9 months.

    Having said that, given enough data and enough processing power then what we call consciousness (simple social and self and one’s Gene protectionist rules) will be replicated and improved upon.

    Our consciousness is the way it is and we behave the way we do because of our relatively short lifespan and how we can ensure to continue beyond our lifespan. Hollywood Singularity based movies assumption are crazy. A digital entity presumably will live forever will not worry itself with biological entities such as humans, will not have the need to replicate and improve itself by having children as an example. What would be the motivation of such an entity to keep going?

    I guess such an entity may one day figure out the meaning of life for Earth and decide to manage us better than our self proclaimed politicians. Such an entity will not be governed by man and will plan long term which means many of what we do and how we do it will no longer be possible and I can see “It having to protect us from ourselves”.

  7. Agree with Woz’ point: if you don’t understand it, how can you design/build it? We don’t understand the mind, consciousness or even intelligence.

    You can’t solve a problem you don’t understand.

    1. My ‘Turing Test’ for human intelligence will be when we, as a species, willingly (not fascistly) control our population number. Until we tackle that fundamental, source problem, we’re just a bunch of rabbits run rampant over a planet that cannot and will not sustain us or all the forms of life we denigrate.

      Real Intelligence: When humans are not a plague upon miracle planet Earth, our only home.

      1. One birth per family, all extra births to be exterminated in the nearest drainage ditch. Chinese birth control for all.

        Methinks we need to do away with organized religion first.

    2. I don’t want to say it’s never going to happen but history seems to repeat itself, leaving us pretty much where we started, over and over again

      If we could find the elixir of knowledge and break free of the fear of the tree of knowledge than your dream may come true

      Unfortunately the religious zealots have us blinded by there desire for Control

    3. The evidence I see is that many of us have learnt to think for ourselves, and are earnestly striving to impart our insights to others through forums such as this.

      The problem is that those open to persuasion will not see a difference between us and certain others, occupying the same outward form and inveigling us with equal skill, who are traitors planted by subversive organisations seeking only to harvest cannon fodder in their war against free thinkers, the better to solidify their grasp on the planet’s riches.

  8. Bravo Woz! He speaks my mind.

    Regarding AI: The pundits have already been embarrassed with their time lines and have had to push them back and back. That includes Ray Kurzweil, although he pretends otherwise, which I find disturbing. It’s as if he just-has-to-be-right, but he’s wrong. Instead, he has a good imagination.

    We humans can’t figure out how WE can be outright intelligent, as opposed to psychologically messed up in one way or another. Therefore, what I expect we’d create is Artificial Insanity. “Hello Hal.” Then toss in the fact that our programming languages are fundamentally PRIMITIVE, guaranteed to infest our software with bad memory management, among other problems.

    Dream on dear humans. Dream on. Just don’t chip me, rewire me, reprogram me, bot me, reboot me, etc. I’m not interested.

    Side note: There are some who believe that what we’ll create, instead of AI, are biological systems that severely borrow from what nature has accomplished by way of intelligence. I find that to be grotesque. But it’s a lot more likely than any man-made-mind. Again: Nature will prove to be far smarter than we will ever be. If only we’d figure that out.

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