I very much enjoyed the article “If Computers Could Think” (Fall 2015). Artificial intelligence is a hot topic these days but I am not convinced that we as mankind stand on the brink of complete destruction or enslavement to machine overlords. There are still many areas to tackle before AI is capable of such machinations and independent thought.
It is mentioned in the article that “a computer doesn’t get sick or require a pension.” While it is true that a computer does not require a pension, one must remember that the harder you work a machine, the quicker it will break down. The older a computer gets, the more it will suffer from age in the form of obsolete software or hardware. And while software intelligence increases, so does the intelligence of malicious software and viruses. All of these things could pose a great threat to AI. The possibility of AI getting “sick” is very real.
I don’t believe we are on the verge of androids walking around and fooling us that they are human. Remember that appearances can be deceiving. It would be wise to consider the top down and bottom up approaches to machine intelligence developed by Alan Turing and realize that the development of true, human-like intelligence is much more complex than what current media and movies would have us believe.
I just picked up the Fall 2015 issue which features a picture of the 1957 UC Follies. That Follies was the first after a long hiatus, with Wayne and Shuster's version only a distant memory. In the 1957 version, the book, music, lyrics, and direction were by me and my best friend Marvin Catzman (BA 1959 UC), now deceased, who later became an Ontario Supreme Court judge. Michael Rasminsky (BA 1959 UC), later a surgeon in Montréal, was the music director.
Although none of the participants, to my knowledge, became "big" in show biz, they went on to become authors, lawyers, doctors, accountants and other contributors to Canada and the US.
The picture was taken one night when Wayne and Shuster (soon to be even more famous because of their many appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show) were invited to watch one of the last rehearsals before the show went on. It was the worst rehearsal we ever had (nerves from everyone) but Wayne and Shuster were very kind and stayed for publicity pictures, one of which you published.
Fortunately the show was extremely successful, even getting a positive mention from Nathan Cohen, who at that time was a very acerbic and unforgiving arts critic with a column in the Daily Star. On the strength of its success, the Follies then became an annual event again, at least for the next decade and a half.
Phil Cowan (BA 1959 UC)
Retired Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of California, Berkeley
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