May 26, 2021
1. What counts as knowledge?
Object 1: Sophia the AI Robot
Sophia is a ‘social humanoid robot’ developed by the Hong Kong based company, Hanson Robotics, in 2016. Sophia’s role in our world is to help us understand, develop and demonstrate technology. This robot has also acquired a Saudi Arabian citizenship. She has also joined the United Nations as an ‘Innovation Champion’ for Asia and the Pacific. Part of her role will be to help to unlock innovation to work toward achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. However, many people argue that Sophia doesn’t actually know things, that she is just speaking without any real knowledge or understanding of what she is saying
This robot is particularly interesting for this exhibition because LeCun, the Chief Ai Scientist at Facebook, said, “[Sophia] has no feeling, no opinions, and zero understanding of what she says.” This suggests that for someone to be knowledgeable of something, they have to have a theoretical or practical understanding of the matter. In this way, Sophia highlights how saying something that has been programmed into you, or you repeating something your teacher once wrote on the board, doesn’t actually count as knowledge.
This robot also enriches the exhibition because Hanson agreed with Jimmy Fallon in 2017 when he said that Sophia was ‘basically alive’. This implies Sophia is close to human level intelligence, which begs the question, can a robot who is constantly being reprogrammed and being fed information actually know things. Artificial intelligence may be a new type of knowledge. Knowledge (according to Plato) is being able to explain and justify the claims you make. Sophia is able to repeat justifications and explanations that have been programmed into her which illustrates that her claims are justified to a certain extent. Sophia the Ai Robot has challenged what our usual understanding of knowledge is and demonstrated to us that there may be different types of knowledge that humans may not be able to justify.
Object 2: Tweet by Donald Trump
Donald Trump served as the United States 45th President from 2017-2021. This particular Tweet was published from the Ex- President’s twitter account in 2020 as a reaction to his opposition receiving more votes. Twitter labeled this tweet as false information.
This Tweet is particularly interesting for this exhibition because Twitter emphasized on their own support page and in their election fraud policy that they will, “label or remove false and … unverified information.” This suggests that someone’s personal opinion and feelings are not verified true information and therefore cannot be counted as knowledge. Donald Trump announced that the elections were “100% RIGGED,” however the general public refute his statement and agree that the elections were held properly and ethically. Furthermore, knowledge is information that is both accurate and reliable. Donald Trump lacks any evidence in his Tweet to support his argument and so it cannot count as knowledge. As such, this Tweet highlights that a general consensus among society and sufficient evidence are needed for something to be accepted as knowledge.
This Tweet also enriches the exhibition because a CNBC analysis of Trump’s tweets during his presidency found that his most popular and frequent posts largely spread disinformation and distrust. This shows that important figures and people in positions of authority are thought to be knowledgeable by the general public when in fact sometimes things they say are misleading. This can skew people’s opinions and lead them to count false information as knowledge.
Object 3: Verse 67:3 from my copy of the Quran
Verse 67:3 comes from Surah Al Mulk in the Quran. This Surah talks about the beauty of the universe that Allah (God) created. Verse 3 of the Surah discusses specifically the seven heavens.
This verse is particularly interesting for the exhibition because the philosopher Karl Popper stated that, “theories that are in principle unfalsifiable are not science6.” For a theory to be considered valid, it must be able to be tested and conceivably proven false. In this verse, proving that there are seven heavens cannot be tested by scientists which means, according to Popper, it should not be accepted as scientific knowledge rather it can be accepted as a moral belief or opinion.
However, this verse also enriches the exhibition because it puts forward a counterargument that there could be a more relaxed definition of knowledge. An article7 mentioned that, “true beliefs are sometimes knowledge.” This highlights how a more flexible definition of knowledge can be adopted in which a strong moral belief can be recognized as knowledge. Ethical and moral beliefs could be a different type of knowledge that is useful in people’s lives even though it is not strictly considered to be facts. In this way, this verse demonstrates that Muslims who read the Quran regularly could count what is written as true knowledge whereas people of other faiths could have a different set of knowledge.