Immanuel Kant, in the 18th century, asserted that “the intelligence of the individual is measured by the amount of uncertainty he is able to bear”. In this age of uncertainty, if you were given a choice of one human capacity, just one, which would you choose? It seems that human beings have chosen intelligence to take it to the artificial plane, as a quasi-natural extension of our human intelligence. We do not choose empathy, nor kindness, nor generosity, but intelligence. An intelligence that can be benign or malignant, creative or destructive, selfish or generous. It is very relative and complex to ensure that artificial intelligence; that abstract thinking directed towards problem solving or the capacity to acquire knowledge, is at the service of humanity. On the one hand, because everything will depend on the type of intelligence of whoever creates it, and on the other, because it will be a long time before the machine has any thoughts of its own.
Human beings have opted for intelligence in their quest to create and improve what exists, but is intelligence the best of human capacities to do so? Alexis Carrel, the French biologist and physician, said that “intelligence is almost useless to him who has no more than that”.
I know many intelligent people who work their intelligence for the betterment of their environment; at the same time I know intelligent people in whom selfishness, ambition and lack of conscience define the way they act. When I think about knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes and habits, I find that some of them are already in machines and that probably in the not too distant future, they will all be.
Our technological and scientific capabilities have far outstripped our moral and ethical ones. Our ability to use the knowledge and tools we create and develop intelligently and humanely. What is also at stake is what kind of society we want to live in and how we experience our humanity.
At this point the question that invades me is who is smarter, you or the mobile device or computer you are reading this post on?
The answer is increasingly complex, without disparaging your intelligence in the least. Machines are certainly adept at solving dilemmas that benefit from their unique skill sets, but humans have an edge on tasks that machines simply cannot perform.
Machines can take in and process certain types of information much faster than we can. They can spin that data in their “brains”, made of processors, and perform calculations to conjure up multiple scenarios at superhuman speeds. For example, the best chess-trained computers can at this point plan many moves ahead, solving problems much faster than the best human chess players. Machines also learn much faster, reducing complex choices to the most optimal ones. Yes, humans also learn from mistakes, but when it comes to solving the kind of puzzles at which computers excel, we are far more fallible.
Machines enjoy other advantages over people. They have better memories, so they can receive a large amount of information and can access everything almost instantaneously. Machines do not require sleep as humans do, so they can calculate, analyse and perform tasks without rest all day long. Despite viruses or power outages, machines are simply more accurate in achieving a wider range of high-value functions than we are. They are not affected or influenced by feelings, anxieties, worries and concerns that sometimes cloud the judgement and intelligence of mere mortals.
Stanislaw Lec stated that “the first obligation of intelligence is to distrust itself”. Will artificial intelligence have the conscience to distrust itself?
On the other hand, humans are still superior to machines in many ways. We perform tasks, make decisions and solve problems based not only on our intelligence, but also on what we like to call our instincts, our common sense and, perhaps most importantly, our life experiences. Machines can be programmed with vast libraries of information, but they cannot experience life as we do.
Human beings possess traits such as creativity, imagination and inspiration and are capable of emotional attachments to people, animals and things; we have the capacity to love, grieve, yearn, be grateful and experience anger. We can make use of imagination and thought and are able to search for meaning in life individually or collectively. We can develop emotionally to unknown limits.
A person can write a love letter, write a poem, compose music, create a painting or dream up a new invention. Machines can be programmed to replicate some of these tasks, but they do not possess the innate ability to create, in the way that humans do.
The future is a mixture of soft and hard.
A LinkedIn study looked at what companies are looking for when it comes to hiring. It analysed the main skills sought in candidates. And it revealed that the most sought-after skills revolve not only around technology, but also emotional intelligence.
Someone divided people’s skills into two types: hard and soft. And while soft may sound easy, that is where the future lies. Let’s start with the hard ones; the hard skills (the traditionally recognised skills, related to academic knowledge and the formal instructional process) that will be most in demand by employers in the coming months are:
It goes without saying that it is related to Artificial Intelligence. The ability to create and design artificial entities that can perform tasks on their own.
Competence to reflect on a problem in a detailed and methodical way, based on evidence without the intervention of emotions. It involves the application of logical-mathematical thinking (analytical reasoning).
People management: consists of planning, organising and motivating staff to promote their efficient performance in the company. Although for some reason I associate this skill with the soft skills, it is among the hard skills.
Ability to create products that solve specific user needs in a satisfactory way and requiring as little user effort as possible.
The second group includes personal attributes that indicate a high level of emotional intelligence. In its report, LinkedIn lists the five most sought-after: adaptability, creativity, collaboration, time management, persuasiveness.
The study concludes that developing soft skills is the best career investment. This is because the rise of artificial intelligence makes soft skills increasingly scarce and important, as they are precisely those that robots cannot automate.
There was no need for a study to tell us what was already an unquestionable reality, but it is always useful to have these reports to share with the non-believers in the change of era, (those agnostic to digitalisation and automation), in short, with those who do not believe in this era of change.
Are machines smarter than humans?
For Professor Shlomo Maital, academic director of the TIM-Technion Institute of Management, intelligence has two components. One is the ability to learn, the other is the ability to solve problems. And in these areas, machines can be smarter than humans.
Today, computers can learn faster than humans, for example, Watson (IBM) can read and remember all cancer research; something no human being can do.
When the Internet of Things arrives and billions of devices are networked, some experts say that knowledge will double every 12 hours. Human intelligence and learning will not be able to keep up. Even today, no oncologist can ever read even a small fraction of the amount of cancer research articles that are published. Therefore, we will need the help of intelligent computers.
With deep learning, Watson can also solve a problem. For example, how to treat a rare form of cancer, and it has done so. So, in that sense, computers can be smarter than humans.
A distant cousin of Watson, Alexa was introduced in 2014. Since then it has answered questions, played music, made to-do lists, set alarms, streamed podcasts, played audiobooks and provided information about restaurants, weather, traffic and other real-time information such as news. Alexa can also control various smart devices by being used as a home automation system. Alexa has assimilated as a kind of ideal home companion without any of the challenges of a real human being. Approximately 100 million Alexa devices have been sold. But is Alexa smart, and do we give the same importance to a virtual assistant as we do to an AI that is helping to cure cancer?
Many believe that IBM overvalued its artificial intelligence technology, Watson. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty is not one of those people, though. “She said that the entire technology industry has learned that “you can’t just put artificial intelligence on top of existing workflows”. And he said how people should change the way they think about Watson; “people want to call it a business. I call it a capability.
The machines also reflect our vision and our business need.
At this rate, will machines soon be smarter than humans? Will we invest more in mass-market machines than in helping us transform the world for the better?
The machines have been winning and losing.
Just 33 years ago (10 February 1996) the Deep Blue computer (like Watson, also from IBM) defeated the world chess champion Garry Kasparov. Was Deep Blue intelligent? The answer is yes and also no.
Yes, because he was able to analyse all the chess moves and choose the one necessary to beat Kasparov.
No, because he was simply able to calculate a huge number of possible chess moves in a fraction of a second. Speed is not intelligence.
Computers do not suffer from major limitations that nevertheless affect humans. That is, they are not constrained by biology, they do not get tired, they can process numbers for long hours and they are exceptionally intelligent at performing repetitive mathematical tasks. Any repetitive task that creates a large amount of data will eventually be learned by machines.
But experts agree that humans still outperform machines in general intelligence, creativity, knowledge and understanding of the world.
Deep learning is “deep” because the learning is done through an “artificial” neural network that is several layers deep. Just as the brain works by sending electrical signals from one neuron to another many times, passing through a variety of locations in the brain and through a variety of sub-networks, deep learning ‘learns’ by employing several layers of neural networks.
Waycare is a predictive platform that uses machine learning and deep learning to predict traffic accidents or crashes approximately two hours before they occur and provides city officials, especially traffic managers, with a forecasting tool up to 24 hours in advance or a tool to control traffic. The goal is to change the way cities manage accidents from a reactive to a proactive perspective. Today, cities dispatch police and emergency medical personnel when accidents are reported. Waycare’s technology can help prevent such accidents and position first responders in advance near accident-prone stretches of road, significantly shortening crucial response time.
Machines can outperform humans in certain specialised tasks, such as playing chess or other games, but no computer program today can match human general intelligence. Humans learn to achieve many different kinds of goals in a wide variety of environments. We do not yet know how to endow machines with the kind of common sense of the everyday world that underpins human general intelligence. But many experts are confident that we will be able to do so one day.
People possess creativity and intuition, both qualities that computer code does not possess, and more importantly, probably never will.
For example, we can make machines mimic creativity by subsuming works of art into a database and then creating a new work of art from some fusion. But is that the same as human creativity, or is the computer code simply following a set of instructions? This is what makes the machine far inferior when it comes to that intelligence component.
Humans and machines working together.
Machines do not have a concept of meaning in the way that a human being does. Even if the machine could determine an emotion, it would not understand what it means to experience an emotion. Will they in the future? It is likely.
Experts generally agree that tomorrow’s machines will possess some of the traits that today are considered uniquely human.
The human brain has more than 80 billion neurons, all inter-connected. Computer neural networks have far fewer cells; but we cannot rule out that one day such neural networks will reach the complexity and sophistication of the human brain. Alarm!
All of this is likely to come sooner rather than later. Once we have cracked the neurocode that drives our brains, it is thought that we could replicate that structure and function artificially, so that we could create artificial life with artificial intelligence.
Certainly, although it is almost impossible, we need to maintain control over artificial intelligence so that we can control the machines and not the other way around. But how can we ensure that machine intelligence that may be completely beyond our comprehension remains fully aligned with our own?
“So what is the kind of intelligence that is not artificial?” asks JR in the Digital Rebels blog. And he answers:
“It could be said that the only truly authentic thing is that which is acquired through our own experience, but only if it is no longer influenced or conditioned by previous learning and information; which is extremely difficult, since freeing oneself from the conditioning that limits the emergence of intelligence is a process that takes many years of attention. Because often, not even our own experiences are able to break down artificially acquired conditioning. Our response to everyday stimuli is not very different from the responses that a machine programmed with the same information could give.
We live most of our lives on a kind of autopilot, which allows us to react in a similar, stipulated and predictable way to the stimuli we are presented with, effortlessly.
This ability to function automatically makes us similar to any machine programmed for the same function”.
Instead of obsessing over who is smarter or remaining fearful of technology, we should remember that computers and machines are designed to improve our lives. Or at least that is what we like to believe. As machines get better, we must ensure that “helping us” remains their primary function.
We are not and do not want to be in a competition but rather in a partnership.
The term Artificial Intelligence is very misleading. Intelligence is the ability to solve problems and learn. Learning and problem solving are related. The more problems you solve, the more you learn. And the more you learn, the better you can solve problems. Human beings have intelligence. So do animals. And so do some machines. If a human being, a chimpanzee and a computer can learn and solve problems, then they all have intelligence. There is nothing artificial about it.
AI is just one in a list of technologies that have transformed history. All advances are capable of creating or destroying and it is up to us what we do with what we create. Let human and artificial intelligence have the clarity to understand the difference.
In the future, and recalling the words of John Fitzgerald Kennedy who said that “an intelligent man is one who knows how to be intelligent enough to hire people more intelligent than himself”, we may see Artificial Intelligence being hired by humans for certain tasks, as well as many intelligent machines hiring humans for those tasks for which we are not replaceable.
In this age of uncertainty, ambiguity and complexity in questions and answers is what brings out the essence of being human.