To breathe, to feel, to decide: Are we something other than a series of elementary operations? The general public is seizing this secular question, Robots humanoids.

This is undoubtedly one of those questions whose answer, necessarily incomplete has little interest in comparison with the questions it raises and for centuries. Philosophers and scientists have wondered whether the human being is reducible to a set of algorithms. According to Le Larousse “A set of operating rules whose application makes it possible to solve a problem stated by means of a finite number of operations”.

Computational vision of the human body; Robots humanoids

Behind this question lies a frontal opposition between the defenders of a computational vision of the human body. Like Yuval Noah Harari declaring that “human beings, giraffes, viruses are all algorithms. So They are different from computers, in the sense that they are biochemical algorithms. Which have evolved according to natural selection, over millions of years and on the other hand the proponents of a less mechanistic line.

Contemporary approaches, numerous are now focused on the possible parallel between the functioning of the human body and computer algorithms. Far from being a field confiscated by certain specialists the subject captivates the greatest number and mixing discoveries in neurosciences and philosophy of Giorgio Agamben, among other things.

Rachel Delpierre a student at the University Toulouse is IA, is one of these enthusiasts. On June 19, 2019, she revealed the results of a research group on the question: “Is the whole human being Algorithmable?” So we asked him a few questions.

Point: You are interested in the “Algorithmable” dimension of the human being. What do you mean?

Rachel Delpierre : First of all, the term algorithmable does not exist, it can be subject to many interpretations. It is especially useful because it carries many questions. Since, it is questioning through this term the comparison of the entirety of the cognitive and physiological processes of the human being with algorithms.

The translation of physiological and more largely biological phenomena into mathematical language is an old chimera. So what is the relevance of this idea?

How our brain works?

Today, the major issue is undoubtedly in the unveiling and deep understanding of how our brain works. Numerous researches make it possible to explain more and more cognitive mechanisms. At the same time, scientists have been drawing inspiration from the brain for many years in the field of statistics and artificial intelligence and the best-known example being artificial neural networks.

The speech, very audible today, about the algorithmization of the human being does not mask the many researches in the field of biomimicry?

There has always been this tension between the discourses on “the algorithmization of the human being” and the reflections on “the humanization of the algorithms” – by humanization, I obviously mean an inspiration of the physiological phenomena. After, the limits are immense: some speeches on biomimetics forget to specify that with regard to the brain, we are far from being certain of the precise operations of the latter. We may be copying mechanisms that are not perfectly accurate!

Algorithmization our physiological processes

In any case, we are still far from a potential “algorithmization” of all our physiological processes, right?

Absolutely, that’s what our research shows. The crucial notion of subjectivity is a key element, the mechanisms of their entirety. Take a judge for example: his subjectivity, his taking into account of personal cases characterize him. This is the difference with the operation of a computer algorithm.

So Cynthia Fleury brings an interesting light to the question of a possible comparison between individuals and algorithms. It separates theoretically individuals and dividual – the latter concept relating to the assembly of different algorithms “without a single ego”. Then in his eyes, the singularity of a living being is precisely not to be solely composed of an assembly of algorithmic phenomena. There would be “something more”: a subjectivity, a morality, a spirituality, depending on the point of view.

This is highlighted in our conclusion. Here again, the key lies probably in our brain: it centralizes a phenomenal amount of information, and has the mission to classify them, to prioritize them. Although it sounds natural to us, it is an absolutely unique exercise. This is undoubtedly where lies this “mystery”, this something more. So we are not yet at the point where we will be able to translate into an algorithm and make Robots humanoids.

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