Human, machines, and the interpretation of formal systems

AI and Society 31 (2):157-169 (2016)
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Abstract

There are plenty of intelligent machines in our world today: digital computers and autonomous robots. At the heart of each of these machines there are automatic formal systems (programs running on a digital computer). Now, if the interpretation of a formal system does not belong to the formal system itself, if the interpretation has to be added, it is worth asking: in the case of these intelligent machines that are massively interspersed in our social interactions, where does the interpretation come from? In this paper, we analyse what we call the invisibility of interpretation. Dealing with various types of formal systems (computers, robots, formalist approaches to Economics), the human source of the interpretation of these systems is sometimes concealed by a formalist restriction. To show how the formalist restriction produces the invisibility of interpretation allows us to underline our responsibility, as human agents, for all this interpretative work—and its importance for us as human beings.

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Porfirio Silva
Universidade de Lisboa

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