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WE NEED MORE THAN THOUGHT

GORDON KANE

Theoretical particle physicist and cosmologist; Victor Weisskopf Distinguished University Professor, University of Michigan; author, Supersymmetry and Beyond

What do I think about machines that think? In general I’m happy to have them around and to have them improve. There is of course a danger that such machines will make harmful decisions, but a danger probably no greater than from humans making such decisions.

Having these machines won’t answer the questions about the world that are the most important to me and many others: What constitutes the dark matter of the universe? Is supersymmetry really a symmetry of nature that provides a foundation for and extends the highly successful Standard Model of particle physics we have? These and similar questions can be answered only by experimental data. No amount of thought will provide such answers.

Perhaps, given all the information we have about nature, some machine will actually come up with the right answers; indeed, perhaps some physicists have already come up with the answers. But the true role of data is to confirm which answers are the correct ones. If some physicist or some machine figures it out, they have no way to convince anyone else that they have the actual answer. Laboratory dark matter detectors or the CERN Large Hadron Collider or possibly a future Chinese collider might get the needed data, but not a thinking machine.

 
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