, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 215–242 | Cite as

Machine intelligence: a chimera

  • Mihai NadinEmail author
Original Article


The notion of computation has changed the world more than any previous expressions of knowledge. However, as know-how in its particular algorithmic embodiment, computation is closed to meaning. Therefore, computer-based data processing can only mimic life’s creative aspects, without being creative itself. AI’s current record of accomplishments shows that it automates tasks associated with intelligence, without being intelligent itself. Mistaking the abstract (computation) for the concrete (computer) has led to the religion of “everything is an output of computation”—even the humankind that conceived the computer. The hypostatized role of computers explains the increased dependence on them. The convergence machine called deep learning is only the most recent form through which the deterministic theology of the machine claims more than what it actually is: extremely effective data processing. A proper understanding of complexity, as well as the need to distinguish between the reactive nature of the artificial and the anticipatory nature of the living are suggested as practical responses to the challenges posed by machine theology.


Hypostatize Convergence Anticipatory Meaning G-complexity 


Acknowledgements instead of any conclusion

This study was in progress when in the summer of 2017 Karamjit Gill announced a memorial issue dedicated to Hubert Dreyfus’s legacy. It is the outcome of almost 30 years of work in computation—writing programs, testing ideas, carrying out experiments—and of no less intense dedication to understanding how computation has changed us. During this long preparation, I experienced Dreyfus’s prosopagnosia three times. Indeed, he could not recognize me (as he had the same problems with others). My enthusiasm for computation made him often lose patience. He wanted to write a review of The Civilization of Illiteracy, but in the end could not find time for it. Weizenbaum imparted to me many insights into academic life: you can have a chair at MIT, but if you do not bring in the money, there was no electricity in the room where the chair was located. In Hamburg (Mediale 1998) and later in Berlin (2004), we disagreed as only Talmudic scholars would—mainly because Weizenbaum and I were into debunking the rapidly growing mythology of the “mother of all machines.” Some of the thoughts in my text go back to conversations with both of them. As I was finishing yet another review of this text, the news reached me: a Weizenbaum Institute (for the networked world) was funded in Berlin. Guilt (the Nazis decimated his family in Germany) and a “slap in the face” of America for the recognition it did not give Weizenbaum combine in the establishment of an institution that will have to live up to his provocative thinking. Other conversations—with McCarthy and Minsky—a short exchange with Simon, and another with Pat Hayes are also reflected in the text. Over many years, Lotfi Zadeh listened patiently to my arguments and shared some of his own with me, challenging me with his examples. Also over many years, Pamela McCorduck and Terry Winograd assisted, not always agreeing with what I had to say. After the preprint ( was published, I received feedback from Jaron Lanier, Soren Brier, Ilkka Tuomi, Michael Winkler and Jaime Cárdenas García, Maximilian Schich, Clarissa Sieckenius de Souza, and Frank Dufour. Dr. Eric Topol graciously read the paper and so did Pascal Honoré. It helped a lot. No, this study was not supported by any grant, except that of Elvira Nadin’s generous willingness to be the sounding board for ideas that would not qualify as middle of the road statements—and often coming up with her own insights. I remain responsible for all my inferences, faulty or otherwise. Several reviewers, some more competent than others, not only endorsed publication, but also expressed reserve. For this I am more grateful than for uncritical endorsement.


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© Springer-Verlag London Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Research in Anticipatory SystemsUniversity of Texas at DallasRichardsonUSA

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