如果有一天“人造人”写出了小说——麦克尤恩演讲全文

2018年“21大学生国际文学盛典”10月26日在中国人民大学举行,伊恩·麦克尤恩是今年的致敬作家。70岁的他因为这场活动第一次踏足中国:“这项活动终于把我和我太太带到了你们这片伟大非凡的国土上,我从心底里感谢你们。”

在活动现场,麦克尤恩发表了题为《如果有一天“人造人”写出了小说》的演讲,主题是“数字革命”。他由互联网谈到人工智能,再谈到人造人。

作为小说家,麦克尤恩关心的是,如果人工智能发展到第一个人造人写出了第一部有意义的原创小说时,我们该如何理解他们。而小说,将是我们借以理解他们的最佳途径。

演讲者

伊恩·麦克尤恩

1 | 数字革命

一场现代性的意识转变

我想要开启一段短暂的路程,踏入不可知的未来。

我的出发点是在我们的有生之年已经发生的一项深刻的改变,而它影响的是这颗星球上的绝大多数成人,还有孩子。当然,我所说的就是数字革命。

今天我们尚处在这场革命的初级阶段。也许历史刚刚完成了第一章。接下来的章节会更加深刻地影响我们如何理解我们自身的人性,进而影响我们的文学和我们所有的艺术形式。此时此刻,这些新章节正在书写之中。

我这一代人,出生于20世纪中叶,成长于模拟信号的世界中。我们寄信,我们在公共电话亭里通话(信号很差);要想了解世界信息,我们会伸手求助书架上的百科全书。我们得到的新闻永远迟了一天。接着,我们不得不笨拙地过渡到一个数字宇宙中,为了应付各种数字任务,我们时常得求助于自己的子女,然后是我们的孙辈。

对于80后以及更年轻的人而言,他们成人之时,英特网业已成为了生活的一部分,那些被他们随身揣在口袋里的强大电脑不仅仅是有用的工具——它们已经成为了自我的延展。英特网几乎已成为一个包围、影响意识本身的巨大精神体。

我们学会了像在自己的脑海中漫游一样漫游于网络空间之中。我们与朋友,与广阔的信息世界的连接速度同步于我们思维的速度。英特网成为了我们的存储空间,成为了雄心、知识、关系、梦想与渴望的中心。对于我们大多数人而言,从学生到总统,没有了互联网,工作——甚至是生活——都是不可想象的。它以它最美好的面孔和最丑恶的形态囊括了人性。它囊括了我们。一旦由于某种技术原因丢失了网络连接,我们立刻就会感到孤独,感到失落。这种奇怪的感觉完完全全是现代性的。它代表了人类意识的一次转变。

但这仅仅是开始。

2 | 人工智能

变革终将到来

过去十年间,我们目睹了计算机科学的一场革命。人工智能时代已经降临。

25年前,一台计算机打败了一位国际象棋大师。那台计算机的程序中塞满了数千场象棋赛。每走一步棋,它都会演算出每一种可能性。但就在去年,另一台计算机仅仅被输入了比赛规则和要求取胜的指令。

除此之外,别无其它。

比赛开始了,它下出了一步又一步非同寻常、步步见血的妙招,而这些绝不是人类能够想出的招数——譬如说,开局弃后。一台机器再定义了人类的游戏。

机器学习已经进入了第一个兴旺期。利用算法,基于我们之前的购买选择,人工智能已经能够给我们提供书籍电影网上导购建议了。它还能够规划商业航班线路。它还将在自动驾驶设计中大放异彩。

| 与alphago对弈的柯洁

这一切会通向何方呢?许多个世纪来,在许多种不同的文化中,人们的脑海里一直萦绕着一个梦。那个梦就是创造出一个人造版的我们。就像基督教的上帝用黏土造出第一个人那样,如今我们自己或许有朝一日也能成为上帝,造出我们自己的第一个人造人。

一千年前,在欧洲大大小小的教堂里,有的雕像会在某些特殊的日子里,为人类的错误和罪孽而落泪。人们目瞪口呆地望着这一神迹——一尊上了油彩的石像竟然活了过来!如今我们知道了——雕像里面藏着一个水槽,里面有一条金鱼。金鱼一游动,水就会顺着一根隐蔽的管道流到人像的眼睛里。

19世纪初叶,一本小说诞生了,它成为了后来一切的文本基石。玛丽·雪莱的《弗兰肯斯坦》讲述了一个与该书同名的科学家如何造出了一个人,用电赋予了他生命。弗兰肯斯坦的造物最后成了一个杀人犯。这个故事后来成为了一个强有力的隐喻,告诫我们科学创造最终可能让我们玩火自焚。

我们生来就有一种将生命投射到无生命体上的本能。一幅最粗陋的人脸画也能把婴儿逗笑。谁没有在汽车打不着火的时候恨不得踹它一脚呢?一位哲学家曾经对我说,我们能够与一台冰箱建立起情感联结。但如今我们看到,未来我们也许真的能造出可信的、智慧的类人体,许多年来,我们的小说与电影一直对此浮想联翩。

我们的新表亲或许一开始会成为孩子们的玩伴——目前市场上已经有了这类产品的初级版。机器人可以帮助照料老年人,在人口迅速老龄化的日本,这件事正在成为现实。科技已经造出了栩栩如生的皮肤、眼睛、头发;今天的机器人已经可以跳舞,甚至可以接球了——这件事并不像我们看来的那么简单。要设计出能够准确无误地理解,使用语言的软件则是一项更加艰巨的任务。而最最艰巨的任务则是创造出所谓的通用智能。

但这一天会到来的。唯一的问题就是,何时到来。

3 | 无法抗拒的诱惑

当人造人拥有意识,意味着什么

也许这一天到来得不会像我们许多人想象的那样快。

人工智能让我们了解到,大脑究竟有多么神奇——一台只占一升空间的水冷三维生物计算机。它包含了大约1000亿个神经元,每一个神经元平均产生7000条输入与输出信号。神经元之间的连接数量超出了我们的想象力。而这一切的耗能只有25瓦——相当于一个小灯泡的功率。我们目前的科技水平远远达不到这样的微型化程度,更不用说还要同时避免元件过热问题了。我们甚至还没有找到储存电能的高效途径。你在网上看到的那种笨重的机器人通常都插着一根电源线。不接电源的话,它们蹦跶不了多久就得充电。

还有,我们很容易忘记一点:象棋和生活不一样。象棋是一个封闭系统。比赛的历史与现状都确凿无疑。比赛的结局也确凿无疑。而生活却是一个开放系统——在各个层面上都不可预测。语言也是一个开放系统。要理解一个句子,我们必须调用关于外部世界的先验知识。要理解词义,语境是至关重要的。

但无论如何,那一天会到来的,人工智能会出现在笔记本、台式机与大型计算机中——它们还会帮助人类设计先进的人造人——因为我们无法抗拒那个计划的诱惑,那个古老的梦想,尽管依照我们自己的形象制造一台机器或许并没有太多的科学价值。但我们也可以说,孤零零的一台笔记本,一台没有躯体的计算机永远也没法同我们建立起一丝一毫的相似之处,它们既无法了解理解我们,我们也无法理解它们。

随着硬件与软件的进步,我们将面对一个古老的问题。当一个人形物带着善解人意的表情 ,温暖的声音,有智慧、有见识的举止出现在你面前,而你知道这个造物就是在北京附近的一座工厂中生产出来的时候,这究竟意味着什么呢?你的新朋友真的和你一样有意识吗?还是说,那只是他的设计带给人的错觉?他真的有自我,有悲喜,会怀恋过去,期待未来吗?

这个问题有一个很粗浅的应对方法。伟大的计算机科学家艾伦·图灵在1930年代认真思考过机器智慧的问题,我们不妨采纳他提出的理念:如果你根本没法判定一台机器是否有意识,那你不妨就假定他有意识。毕竟,我们所有人类都必须假定彼此有意识,可我们从来得不到这一点的最终证明。还有一个方法可以应对机器意识的难题——但我想把这一点留到最后。

归根结底,思维所依附的人脑是由物质构成的。而物质是由你的大脑和人造人的“大脑”所共享的。近100年来,理论物理学家一直在告诉我们,物质比常识所以为的要奇怪的多。

当我们最终发展到能够接受生物大脑相对于无机物大脑并不享有任何特殊地位或特权时,我们立刻就会面对一系列有趣的问题。我们应该授予人造人以公民权和公民义务吗?买卖或拥有这样一个造物是否是不道德的,就像过去买卖或拥有奴隶是不道德的一样?摧毁这样一个造物是否构成谋杀?他们会不会变得比我们更聪明,抢走我们的工作?在我们今日的工厂里,聪明但没有思维的机器已经开始替代工人了。下一个也许就轮到医生和律师了。接下来就是那个终极问题:人造人会征服我们,甚至是取代我们吗?

这些正是科幻小说多年来一直在探索的问题。现在,这些问题终于到了需要回答的时刻了。

4 | 伟大的冒险

用小说尝试预演未来

未来已然降临。我们可以赋予一台计算机怎样的道德准则呢?

自主、自动驾驶车辆的生产商们已经开始面对这件事了。你的新车应该忠于谁呢?一个孩子突然蹿上马路,正好蹿入了你的行驶路线。如果你猛打方向盘,一头撞上一辆迎面驶来的大货车,你就可以挽救孩子的生命。

这个选择必须在须臾之间做出。大脑运转迟缓的人类不太擅长快速厘清这类问题。你新买的自动驾驶汽车可以遵照编定的程序,将你的生命安全置于其他所有人的生命安全之上。或者,它也可以奉利他主义和社会公益之名,准备好了牺牲你的生命。这是一个我们在设计汽车自动驾驶软件时不得不面对的道德选择。

对于我们许多人而言,我们的童年都会经历这样一个阶段——我们终于意识到了一个非常深奥的道理:这颗星球上生活着数十亿人类,其中的每一个个体都有着和你的内心一样鲜活、真实、不言自明的精神生活。也许,这就是道德观在一个人的童年诞生的时刻,那一刻你开始理解每一个旁人对于他们自己而言也是真实的,就如同你对于你自己而言是真实的一样。你希望别人如何待你,你就得如何待人 ;你还得试图理解一个不同于你的他人究竟意味着什么。

这就把我的话题引到了另一项发明之上,一项古老的发明,不需要电池驱动,也无需高深的科技,但在道德上和审美上却高度复杂,当它登峰造极之时,美得无以伦比。我说的是各种形式的小说。要想进入别人的思想,要想衡量不同人的思想彼此之间的关系,以及它们与容纳它们的社会之间的关系,小说依然是我们最好的途径,最好的工具。小说家是在他人的思想之海上扬帆的水手。电影直观易懂,也很引人入胜,但它并没有像许多人预言过的那样让小说消亡。只有小说能呈现给我们流动在自我的隐秘内心中的思维与情感,那种通过他人的眼睛看世界的感觉。

如果我们真的准备好了——也许就在本世纪——创造出全新的有意识体,而他们的思想会渐渐踏上一条和我们截然不同的道路,那么小说就将是我们借以理解他们的最佳途径。我将我的一生都献给了这种艺术形式,我确信它可以进入这颗星球上任何一个男人,女人和小孩的头脑中。因此,它也可以进入一个类人机器人的头脑中。小说可以尝试着预演我们未来的主观意识,包括那些我们所发明的头脑的主观意识。在我们争论究竟应该给我们的造物注入何种道德体系的过程中,我们将不可避免地面对并阐明三个问题:我们是谁,我们是什么,我们想要什么。而当一个人造人写处了第一部有意义的原创小说时——如果真有这一天的话——我们将有机会通过我们所创造的这些“他者”的眼睛看见我们自己。这将确凿无疑地证明一件事:一种全新的,有意识的造物已经降生在我们身边了。一场伟大的冒险将就此展开,无论它带来的会是美好还是恐怖。

谢谢。(演讲翻译稿由腾讯文化提供,段落有调整,小标题为编者所加)

—— 演讲英文版原文 ——

I want to take a brief journey into the unknowable future. My starting point is the profound change that has happened in our lifetimes and has affected the majority of adults on this planet, and children too. I’m talking, of course, about the digital revolution. We are still in its early stages. Perhaps history has just concluded chapter one. The next chapters will have even greater consequences for how we understand our own humanity, and therefore it will have consequences for our literature and for all our arts. Those new chapters are being written now.

My generation, born in the mid twentieth century, grew up in an analogue world. We posted letters, we talked to each other from public phone boxes, (the reception was poor) and for information about the world we reached for encyclopaedias from off the shelves. We got our news a day late. Then we had to make an awkward transition to the digital universe and we often turned to our children and then our grandchildren for help with certain digital tasks.

For those born in the 1980s and since, who came of age when the internet was already a fact of life, the powerful computers that sit in their pockets are not merely useful devices – they have become an extension of the self. The internet has come to resemble a vast mind which envelops and influences consciousness itself. We have learned to move around cyberspace as we might move around in our own thoughts. We connect with friends as well as the wider world of information with the speed of thought. The internet has become our memory store, the locus of aspiration, knowledge, relationships, dreaming and yearning. For most of us, from student to president, work, even life, is impossible without the internet. In its best and worst aspects, it encompasses human nature. It contains us. When we lose our connection to the internet for some technical reason, we feel isolated, bereft. This strange sensation is thoroughly modern. It represents a shift in human consciousness.

But it’s only the beginning. The past ten years have seen a revolution in computer science. The age of artificial intelligence is now upon us. Twenty five years ago, a computer beat a grandmaster at chess. It was programmed with thousands of chess games. At every move, it rehearsed every possibility. But last year, a computer was given only the rules of the game and told to win. Nothing else.When it played, it made extraordinary and successfulmoves that no human had ever thought of, like an early sacrifice of the queen. A machine re-imagined the human game. Machine-learning had arrived at its first blossoming. Using algorithms, artificial intelligence is already advising us which books or movies to buy on-line, based on our previous choices.It plans the routes of commercial aircraft. It will play its part in the design of autonomous vehicles.

Where might this lead us? There is a dream that has haunted many different cultures for centuries. It is a dream of making an artificial version of ourselves. Just as the Christian god was once supposed to have made the first man out of clay, so we confront now the possibility of becoming like gods ourselves by making our own first artificial human. Nearly a thousand years ago there were in the churches and great cathedrals of Europe, statues that wept on certain special days at the errors and sins of mankind. People stood amazed at this wonder - a painted stone figure coming to life! Now we know - concealed inside the statue was a tank of water with a goldfish. As it swam about, it pushed water along a hidden tube to the figure’s eyes.

In the early nineteenth century a novel appeared that became a foundational text. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein tells the story of a scientist of that name who builds a man which he brings to life with electricity. Frankenstein’s creature turns out to be a murderer. The tale has become a powerful metaphor for how the creations of science can turn against us.

We ourselves have an innate tendency to project life onto inanimate things. A small baby will smile at the crudest drawing of a face. Who has not wanted to kick the car when it won’t start? As a philosopher said to me once, we are capable of forming an emotional relationship with a fridge. But now we see in our future the possibility of making plausible, intelligent humanoids of the sort that our fiction and movies have been playing with for many years. Our new cousins might first be playmates for children – already there are some simple versions on the market. Robots can help look after elderly people, as is already happening in Japan, where the population is ageing fast. Technology has produced life-like skin, eyes, and hair; there are now robots who can dance and – not so easy as it seems to us – even catch a ball. It is much harder to devise software that can understand and use language without mistakes. Hardest of all is creating what’s known as general intelligence. But it will happen. The only question is when.

It might not be as soon as many think. Artificial intelligence has taught us just how wondrous the brain is - a one litre, liquid-cooled, three-dimensional biological computer. It containsabout a hundred billion neurons, with an average of seven thousand inputs and outputs for each neuron. The number of connections between the neurons is beyond our imagining. And it all runs on twenty five watts – the power of a dim lightbulb. There is nothing in our current technology that comes anywhere near this degree of miniaturisation, and all achieved without overheating. We don’t even yet have an efficient way of storing electricity. The clumsy robots you see on the internet are often attached to a power line. Either that, or they can’t last very long on their feet without recharging.

And it is easy to forget - chess is not the same as life. Chess is a closed system. There’s no doubt about the history or present state of the game. Nor is there any doubt about the end of the game. Life, on the other hand, is an open system – unpredictable at every level. Language too is an open system. To understand a sentence we have to bring prior knowledge of the outside world. Context is everything when it comes to understanding words.

But still, it will come, artificial intelligence in laptops, desktops and mainframe computers – and they will help in the design of advanced artificial humans – because we can’t resist the project, ourancient dream, even though it might not have much scientific value to make a machine in our own image. Though it could be said that a simple, isolated laptop, a computer without a body that resembles ours, can never be remotely like us or understand us, nor we understand them.

As the hardware and software advance, we will face an old question. What would it mean, to have this human shape in front of you with a sympathetic expression, a warm voice, an intelligent, well-informed manner and to know that this creature was manufactured in a factory not far from Beijing? Might your new friend actually be conscious like you? Or is he simply designed to give that impression? Does he have a self, can he feel sorrow and joy, nostalgia and anticipation?There’s a crude way of dealing with this question: to adapt the notion of the great computer scientist, Alan Turing, who was thinking hard about machine intelligence in the 1930s: if you can’t even tell whether a machine is conscious or not, you might as well assume that it is. After all, we all have to assume consciousness in each other. We can never have a final proof. There’s another way of dealing with the problem of machine consciousness – but I’ll keep that back until the very end.

Ultimately, the human brain, on which the mind depends, is made of matter. Matter is what your brain and the ‘brain’ of an artificial human will both share. Theoretical physicists have been telling us for almost a hundred years that matter is far stranger than common sense suggests. When we reach the point at which we accept that there is no special status or privilege in having a biological as opposed to an inorganic brain, then immediately we will confront a host of interesting problems. Should we grant the rights and responsibilities of a citizen to an artificial human? Will it be wrong to buy or own such a being, as people used to buy and own slaves? Will it be murder if we destroy such a being? Will they become cleverer than us, and take our jobs? Already, in our factories, clever but mindless machines are replacing workers. Doctors and lawyers could be next. Then the ultimate question: will artificial humans dominate us, or even replace us?

These are questions that science fiction has been dealing with for many years. Now, at last, the questions need answering. The future has arrived. What kind of moral principles might we grant to a computer? The manufacturers of autonomous, self-driving vehicles are already confronting this. What are the loyalties of your new car? A child runs out into the road, right into your path. You could save its life if you swerved and crashed head-on into a lorry coming towards you. This choice must be made in a fraction of a second. Humans, with their slow-moving brains, are not very good at thinking this through quickly. Your new autonomous car might be programmed to care for your life above all other’s. Or it might be ready, in the name of altruism and the social good, to sacrifice you. This is a moral choice we will have to make in the design of the automobile software.

For many of us, there comes a point in childhood when we become aware of a very difficult idea: Of the billions who live on this planet, every single individual has a mental life that is just as vivid and real and self-evident as your own. Perhaps in childhood this is the moment when morality begins, when you start to understand that everyone else is as real to themselves as you are to yourself. You must treat others as you would wish to be treated and try to understand what it is to be someone other than yourself.

This notion brings me to another invention, an older one that runs without batteries and is technically simple but morally and aesthetically highly complex and, at its best, extremely beautiful. I’m thinking of the novel in all its forms. It remains our best means, our best device for entering the minds of other people, and measuring the relation of minds to each other, and to the society in which they live. The novelist is a voyager on an ocean of other minds. Cinema is immediately accessible and compelling, but it has not driven the novel into extinction as many once predicted. Only the novel can give us the flow of thought and feeling within the privacy of selfhood, that sense of seeing the world through the eyes of others.

If we are poised, perhaps in this century, to create new kinds of conscious beings whose minds might begin to be diverge from our own, the novel will be one of our best means of understanding them. I’ve given my life to this form and I’m certain that it can enter the mind of any man, woman or child on this planet. It can therefore enter the mind of a humanoid robot. The novel can attempt to rehearse our future subjectivity, including the subjectivity of those whose minds we will invent. As we debate what kinds of moral systems we want to install in our creations, we will inevitably have to confront and define who and what we are, what we want. And when,or if,an artificial human ever writes the first original and meaningful novel, we will have the opportunity to see ourselves through the eyes of others who we ourselves created. This will be final confirmationthat a new kind of conscious being is among us. A great adventure, benign or horrific, will begin.

Thank you.

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