Friday, September 21, 2007

good-bye Alex

I was emotionally affected by this more than I would have expected: Alex the intelligent parrot has died. Similarly trained apes and dolphins can do the same mental tasks, if not more, but it was always amusing to experience a real "talking animal", which is a quite common occurrence in fiction. Debates about the true nature of how Alex's abilities operated strike me as hollow, but then again I lost interest in scientific psychology years ago. One of the firmest conclusions about intelligence that have come out of AI is that "common-sense" reasoning is the end result of many data items and training sessions, so the boundary between "thinking by rote" and "higher-level cognitive functions" may be mushier than we humans care to admit.

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