Mike Wills
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Surgeon's Dilemma

Surgeon's Dilemma

Dec 10, 2022

Stereotypical thinking is one of the major barriers to awareness. Generalisations can help to make sense of the world but they can also seriously mislead us...

A young man who had been badly injured in a car accident has been brought into a hospital's accident and emergency department. The doctor determines that emergency brain surgery is required. Accordingly, the brain surgeon is paged. Upon seeing the patient, the surgeon exclaims, 'My God, I can't operate on that boy! He's my son!'

That is so, but the surgeon is not the boy's father. How can the apparent contradiction be explained?

The answer, of course, is that the surgeon is the boy’s mother. Although there are many women doctors — and many of them prominent specialists — our cultural stereotyping tells us that doctors are men and nurses are women. The story could have just as easily have been about a nurse attending a patient because of the large number of male nurses.

In a similar story two Native Americans — a tall one and a much shorter one — arrive at a fort to negotiate with the US Marshals about the land the Native Americans are occupying. They look very much alike and, in fact, they are closely related. The short native is the son of the tall native, but the tall native is not the father of the short one. What is their relationship?

What would a robot’s answer be to this puzzle?
Does Artificial Intelligence have stereotypical thinking?

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