TOWARD THE DEVELOPMENT OF ARTIFICIAL STUPIDITY

by John Koch, Madison, WI
c 1989 Journal of Irreproducible results


Current attempts to design machines with Artificial Intelligence
(AI) present many technical and philosophical challenges.  The
complementary search for Artificial Stupidity (AS) presents even
greater challenges, while holding out the promise of immediate
and concrete social benefits.
 
At first, this might seem paradoxical.  But those of us involved
in AS research believe that many of humanity's problems arise not
from a lack of natural intelligence but an excess of natural
stupidity.  Intelligent people do foolish things that waste time,
cause worthwhile projects to fail, and sometimes even produce
death and injury.
 
If artificial systems could take over responsibility for doing
dumb things, a great deal of natural intelligence would be
released.  The conservation of the intelligence we already have
is more cost-effective than the attempt to create more of it
artificially.
 
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Our first task has been to establish an operational definition of
stupidity.  We believe that stupidity is in evidence when an
organism takes active, self-generated measures that lead to the
frustration of the goals which thos actions were meant to
achieve.  So far, objectively-verifiable stupidity seems to be a
uniquely human trait.  Though certain inanimate objects, such as
rocks, computers, and breakfast cereals (for example, Cream of
Wheat) are proverbially stupid, they are incapable of
self-generated action.  Animals may do things that appear to be
stupid, but we know too little about their motivations to say
that without a doubt, for example, my dog did not have a
perfectly reasonable end in mind towards which digging up your
garden was an effective means.  We have decided to adopt an
extension of the Turing test to objectively verify stupidity:  we
will know that we have Artificial Stupidity when a human
interacting with a machine cannot tell the difference between it
and a)his or her boss, or b)the stupidest member of his or her
spouse's immediate family.
 
While making only slow progress on the heuristics that would
allow independent generation of dumb ideas by a machine, we have
begun working on the "idiot" programs that will provide the
misinformation base for those ideas.  One fertile source has been
television and movie scripts, particularly in the dialogue given
to professionals sucha as police officers, doctors, social
workers and scientists.  We have made progress in the biological
sciences by using the scripts of 1950's science fiction movies to
create a program that responds either "I don't know what it is,
but I've never seen anything likee it in my life," or "It appears
to be some kind of insect venom," when presented with over 50
different substances, including shoelaces, cheddar cheese, a
California Pinot Noir, flour, dried parsley and a copy of the New
York Times Review of Books.  We are anxious to develop similar
programs in other disciplines, and would be greatful for
assistance in creating a cross-disciplinary resource file of
stupid people.
 
Progress in AS research will probably be painstakingly slow, and
its first fruits disappointingly primitive.  After all, no
computer, however powerful, can match the stupidity potential of
the human brain, especially when several human brains are working
together on a committee.  If we are to develop a system that is
capable of lifting the burden of making stupid mistakes from the
shoulders of humanity, we must find a way to link many Artificial
Stupidity Systems together.