Award the Nobel Prize to an AI that made great discoveries?

This article is taken from the monthly magazine Sciences et Avenir – La Recherche n°925 of March 2024.

In 1972, Nicholas Negroponte, a very young professor of architecture at MIT in the United States (he was barely 29 years old), who was enthusiastic about the use of artificial intelligence, made a scam: he sent famous people politicians, journalists and the Nobel Prize. A letter to the winners asking them what they thought about the Nobel Prize being awarded to a machine that would make great discoveries. At the time, very few people answered this question, which was considered fanciful and somewhat absurd.

Current question

Fifty years later, in 2022, the Colorado (United States) Annual Fair awarded first prize in its fine arts painting competition with the French title, “Space Opera Theater”made using the Midjourney program, which uses artificial intelligence techniques.

Since then, the question posed more than half a century ago by Nicholas Negroponte has become a burning one: why wouldn’t we award a Nobel Prize or a Fields Medal to an artificial intelligence program that has made a significant contribution to the advancement of science or made it? a notable work, such as writing a novel cycle?

The widespread use of the indefinite article in the term “AI” raises doubts

Some counter that the Fields Medal rewards a mathematician under the age of 40 and that it is difficult to estimate the age of a machine, although this is debatable. As for the Nobel Prize, it is awarded to people who, through their inventions, their works, or their work for peace, have brought the greatest benefit to humanity. Some will deny the state of machines to people. However, the widespread use of the indefinite article in the term “AI” raises doubts.

And if we accept the idea of ​​awarding a Nobel Prize to a machine, why not distinguish it from the Legion of Honor if it has demonstrated outstanding service to the nation, such as helping to thwart terrorist attacks? And in this case, shouldn’t we also consider taking it away from her in case she proves unworthy? But then it might be too late…

According to Jean-Gabriel Ganascia, professor at the Sorbonne University in Paris, researcher in the field of artificial intelligence at LIP6 (Sorbonne University, CNRS), former president of the ethics committee of the CNRS. Last published work: “Virtual servants”, Seuil, 2022.

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