24 May 2009

Human by Death review

Last year, I had a Month of Megadeth during May. May is my birthday month so I like to do something special. Something so special that I won't forget it during the inevitable bouts of drinking and debauchery. This year, I'm having a Death Month.


Chuck Schuldiner basically hires Cynic as his backing band and together they craft one of the most skin tearing albums of all time.

Death Human album cover


The album opens with Sean Reinert's incredible drumming fading in. From there, the riffs exchanged between Chuck and Paul Masvidal are tighter than the fix Government Motors (er, General Motors) finds itself in. Widely regarded as Death's finest moment, I prefer Symbolic but Human is certainly just as flawless.

The lyrics are introspective to the point of becoming existential. They deal with euthanasia, masks people wear to project a desired, distorted image to the world and simply with being human. This prompts some questions about what it means to be human. Are we human because we do human things, or are we human because we are born this way? Alan Turing and John Searle are two bright minds who have answered this question in different ways.

The Turing Test

Alan Turing described his Turing test in his paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence.

The Turing test involved three participants: two humans and one computer. One human and one computer are locked in separate rooms. The remaining human poses questions to the inhabitants of each room by typing them into a terminal. The purpose of these questions is to find out which room hosts the human and which the machine. Turing suggests that when the computer can fool the player to think that its room hosts a human, the computer would have passed the Turing test.

The Turing test from Wikipedia

Turing seems to suggest that we are human because we do human things. Thus, if a computer were to do the same human things and can fool us into believing it is human, it would be as good as human. Basically, computers would be human when we say they are human and we can decide when and how they are to become human. Thus, computers would become human because Stone Cold says so.

Stone Cold Steve Austin

Stone Cold Steve Austin. According to Turing, computers become human when Stone Cold says so.

This avoids the issue a little - something that Turing no doubt knew, but he probably avoided the issue in this way for the practical purposes of building imitation humans. Philosopher John Searle is not happy with this arrangement.

Searle's Chinese Room

John Searle presents his Chinese Room argument in his paper Minds, Brains, and Programs. Searle proposes a scenario whereby artificial intelligence has evolved to the point where one such system can be taught fluent Chinese. The system is hosted inside a room and comfortably passes the Turing test by conversing with a human Chinese speaker outside the room.

According to Searle, the machine merely did symbol manipulating according to algorithms. Some proponents of strong AI would reason that the computer passed the Turing test as it understands Chinese. However, Searle turns the experiment around by suggesting that he himself is in a room with all the tools he would need to translate Chinese - dictionaries, pencils, paper, etc. He would be able to translate any Chinese characters which came through the door without understanding a world of Chinese. Searle argues that since he clearly does not understand a word of Chinese, yet can translate Chinese into English with the appropriate algorithms and tools, we have to conclude that the Chinese computer does not necessarily understand Chinese either.

Yet failing the Turing test does not make us less human and more machine. Searle seems to suggest that we aren't human merely because we do human things and no amount of nurture can give machines human nature. Not even when Stone Cold says so.

Track listing

  1. Flattening of Emotions

  2. Suicide Machine

  3. Together as One

  4. Secret Face

  5. Lack of Comprehension

  6. See Through Dreams

  7. Cosmic Sea (Instrumental)

  8. Vacant Planets




~Static~ said...

Stone Cold Steve Austin likes to rape midgets. It's true he told me so...as he was raping me.

Ha ha. Hey what's up Garg, happy b-day or belated b-day. =)

polybore said...

Nice post. Makes polybore want some Raging Speedhorn! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJlGynxwOP0

Worth a review?

Garg the Unzola said...

Raping midgets? I think Stone Cold is more of a midget tossing champion like Chuck Norris than a midget lover.

~Static~ said...

Nope, Austin definitely likes to rape them. What do you think "tossing" really means? =D

Garg the Unzola said...

Tossing midget salad?

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